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Title: Lady of the Lake
Author: Sir Walter Scott
Editor: William Vaughn Moody
Release Date: March 9, 2009 [EBook #28287]
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The Lake English Classics
_REVISED EDITION WITH HELPS TO STUDY_
LADY OF THE LAKE
SIR WALTER SCOTT
EDITED FOR SCHOOL USE
WILLIAM VAUGHN MOODY
SOMETIME ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH
THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO
SCOTT, FORESMAN AND COMPANY
CHICAGO ATLANTA NEW YORK
Copyright 1899, 1919
By Scott, Foresman and Company
[Illustration: THE SCENE OF "THE LADY OF THE LAKE"]
I. Life of Scott 9
II. Scott's Place in the Romantic Movement 39
III. The Lady of the Lake
Historical Setting 46
General Criticism and Analysis 48
Helps to Study 265
Theme Subjects 269
Selections for Class Reading 270
Classes of Poetry 271
I. LIFE OF SCOTT
Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh, August 15, 1771, of an ancient
Scotch clan numbering in its time many a hard rider and good fighter,
and more than one of these petty chieftains, half-shepherd and
half-robber, who made good the winter inroads into their stock of beeves
by spring forays and cattle drives across the English Border. Scott's
great-grandfather was the famous "Beardie" of Harden, so called because
after the exile of the Stuart sovereigns he swore never to cut his beard
until they were reinstated; and several degrees farther back he could
point to a still more famous figure, "Auld Wat of Harden," who with his
fair dame, the "Flower of Yarrow," is mentioned in _The Lay of the Last
Minstrel_. The first member of the clan to abandon country life and take
up a sedentary profession, was Scott's father, who settled in Edinburgh
as Writer to the Signet, a position corresponding in Scotland to that of
attorney or solicitor in England. The character of this father, stern,
scrupulous, Calvinistic, with a high sense of ceremonial dignity and a
punctilious regard for the honorable conventions of life, united with
the wilder ancestral strain to make Scott what he was. From "Auld Wat"
and "Beardie" came his high spirit, his rugged manliness, his chivalric
ideals; from the Writer to the Signet came that power of methodical
labor which made him a giant among the literary workers of his day, and
that delicate sense of responsibility which gave his private life its
remarkable sweetness and beauty.
At the age of eighteen months, Scott was seized with a teething fever
which settled in his right leg and retarded its growth to such an extent
that he was slightly lame for the rest of his life. Possibly this
affliction was a blessing in disguise, since it is not improbable that
Scott's love of active adventure would have led him into the army or the
navy, if he had not been deterred by a bodily impediment; in which case
English history might have been a gainer, but English literature would
certainly have been immeasurably a loser. In spite of his lameness, the
child grew strong enough to be sent on a long visit to his grandfather's
farm at Sandyknowe; and here, lying among the sheep on the windy downs,
playing about the romantic ruins of Smailholm Tower, scampering
through the heather on a tiny Shetland pony, or listening to stories of
the thrilling past told by the old women of the farm, he drank in
sensations which strengthened both the hardiness and the romanticism of
his nature. A story is told of his being found in the fields during a
thunder storm, clapping his hands at each flash of lightning, and
shouting "Bonny! Bonny!"--a bit of infantile intrepidity which makes
more acceptable a story of another sort illustrative of his mental
precocity. A lady entering his mother's room found him reading aloud a
description of a shipwreck, accompanying the words with excited comments
and gestures. "There's the mast gone," he cried, "crash it goes; they
will all perish!" The lady entered into his agitation with tact, and on
her departure, he told his mother that he liked their visitor, because
"she was a virtuoso, like himself." To her amused inquiry as to what a
virtuoso might be, he replied: "Don't ye know? why, 'tis one who wishes
to and will know everything."
[Footnote: 1 See Scott's ballad "The Eve of St. John."]
As a boy at school in Edinburgh and in Kelso, and afterwards as a
student at the University and apprentice in his father's law office,
Scott took his own way to become a "virtuoso"; a rather queer way it
must sometimes have seemed to his good preceptors. He refused
point-blank to learn Greek, and cared little for Latin. His scholarship
was so erratic that he glanced meteor-like from the head to the foot of
his classes and back again, according as luck gave or withheld the
question to which his highly selective memory had retained the answer.
But outside of school hours he was intensely at work to "know
everything," so far as "everything" came within the bounds of his
special tastes. Before he was ten years old he had begun to collect
chap-books and ballads. As he grew older he read omnivorously in romance
and history; at school he learned French for the sole purpose of knowing
at first hand the fascinating cycles of old French romance; a little
later he mastered Italian in order to read Dante and Ariosto, and to his
schoolmaster's indignation stoutly championed the claim of the latter
poet to superiority over Homer; a little later he acquired Spanish and
read _Don Quixote_ in the original. With such efforts, however,
considerable as they were for a boy who passionately loved a "bicker" in
the streets and who was famed among his comrades for bravery in climbing
the perilous "kittle nine stanes" on Castle Rock, he was not content.
Nothing more conclusively shows the genuineness of Scott's romantic
feeling than his willingness to undergo severe mental drudgery in
pursuit of knowledge concerning the old storied days which had
enthralled his imagination. It was no moonshine sentimentality which
kept him hour after hour and day after day in the Advocate's Library,
poring over musty manuscripts, deciphering heraldic devices, tracing
genealogies, and unraveling obscure points of Scottish history. By the
time he was twenty-one he had made himself, almost unconsciously, an
expert paleographer and antiquarian, whose assistance was sought by
professional workers in those branches of knowledge. Carlyle has charged
against Scott that he poured out his vast floods of poetry and romance
without preparation or forethought; that his production was always
impromptu, and rooted in no sufficient past of acquisition. The charge
cannot stand. From his earliest boyhood until his thirtieth year, when
he began his brilliant career as poet and novelist, his life was one
long preparation--very individual and erratic preparation, perhaps, but
none the less earnest and fruitful.
In 1792, Scott, then twenty-one years old, was admitted a member of the
faculty of advocates of Edinburgh. During the five years which elapsed
between this date and his marriage, his life was full to overflowing of
fun and adventure, rich with genial companionship, and with experience
of human nature in all its wild and tame varieties. Ostensibly he was a
student of law, and he did, indeed, devote some serious attention to the
mastery of his profession. But the dry formalities of legal life his
keen humor would not allow him to take quite seriously. On the day when
he was called to the bar, while waiting his turn among the other young
advocates, he turned to his friend, William Clark, who had been called
with him, and whispered, mimicking the Highland lasses who used to stand
at the Cross of Edinburgh to be hired for the harvest: "We've stood here
an hour by the Tron, hinny, and deil a ane has speered our price."
Though Scott never made a legal reputation, either as pleader at the
bar or as an authority upon legal history and principles, it cannot be
doubted that his experience in the Edinburgh courts was of immense
benefit to him. In the first place, his study of the Scotch statutes,
statutes which had taken form very gradually under the pressure of
changing national conditions, gave him an insight into the politics and
society of the past not otherwise to have been obtained. Of still more
value, perhaps, was the association with his young companions in the
profession, and daily contact with the racy personalities which
traditionally haunt all courts of law, and particularly Scotch courts of
law: the first association kept him from the affectation and
sentimentality which is the bane of the youthful romanticist; and the
second enriched his memory with many an odd figure afterward to take its
place, clothed in the colors of a great dramatic imagination, upon the
stage of his stories.
[Footnote 2: Asked.]
Added to these experiences, there were others equally calculated to
enlarge his conception of human nature. Not the least among these he
found in the brilliant literary and artistic society of Edinburgh, to
which his mother's social position gave him entrance. Here, when only a
lad, he met Robert Burns, then the pet and idol of the fashionable
coteries of the capital. Here he heard Henry Mackenzie deliver a lecture
on German literature which turned his attention to the romantic poetry
of Germany and led directly to his first attempts at ballad-writing. But
much more vital than any or all of these influences, were those endless
walking-tours which alone or in company with a boon companion he took
over the neighboring country-side--care-free, roystering expeditions,
which he afterwards immortalized as Dandie Dinmont's "Liddesdale raids"
in _Guy Mannering_. Thirty miles across country as the crow flies, with
no objective point and no errand, a village inn or a shepherd's hut at
night, with a crone to sing them an old ballad over the fire, or a group
of hardy dalesmen to welcome them with stories and carousal--these were
blithe adventurous days such as could not fail to ripen Scott's already
ardent nature, and store his memory with genial knowledge. The account
of Dandie Dinmont given by Mr. Shortreed may be taken as a picture, only
too true in some of its touches, of Scott in these youthful escapades:
"Eh me, ... sic an endless fund of humor and drollery as he had then wi'
him. Never ten yards but we were either laughing or roaring and singing.
Wherever we stopped how brawlie he suited himsel' to everybody! He aye
did as the lave did; never made himsel' the great man or took ony airs
in the company. I've seen him in a' moods in these jaunts, grave and
gay, daft and serious, sober and drunk--(this, however, even in our
wildest rambles, was but rare)--but drunk or sober, he was aye the
gentleman. He looked excessively heavy and stupid when he was fou, but
he was never out o' gude humor." After this, we are not surprised to
hear that Scott's father told him disgustedly that he was better fitted
to be a fiddling peddler, a "gangrel scrape-gut," than a respectable
attorney. As a matter of fact, however, behind the mad pranks and the
occasional excesses there was a very serious purpose in all this
scouring of the country-side. Scott was picking up here and there, from
the old men and women with whom he hobnobbed, antiquarian material of an
invaluable kind, bits of local history, immemorial traditions and
superstitions, and, above all, precious ballads which had been handed
down for generations among the peasantry. These ballads, thus
precariously transmitted, it was Scott's ambition to gather together and
preserve, and he spared no pains or fatigue to come at any scrap of
ballad literature of whose existence he had an inkling. Meanwhile, he
was enriching heart and imagination for the work that was before him. So
that here also, though in the hair-brained and heady way of youth, he
was engaged in his task of preparation.
Scott has told us that it was his reading of _Don Quixote_ which
determined him to be an author, but he was first actually excited to
composition in another way. This was by hearing recited a ballad of the
German poet Bürger, entitled _Lenore_, in which a skeleton lover carries
off his bride to a wedding in the land of death. Mr. Hutton remarks
upon the curiousness of the fact that a piece of "raw supernaturalism"
like this should have appealed so strongly to a mind as healthy and sane
as Scott's. So it was, however. He could not rid himself of the
fascination of the piece until he had translated it, and published it,
together with another translation from the same author. One stanza at
least of this first effort of Scott sounds a note characteristic of his
Tramp! tramp! along the land they rode,
Splash! splash! along the sea;
The scourge is red, the spur drops blood,
The flashing pebbles flee.
Here we catch the trumpet-like clang and staccato tramp of verse which
he was soon to use in a way to thrill his generation. This tiny pamphlet
of verse, Scott's earliest publication, appeared in 1796. Soon after, he
met Monk Lewis, then famous as a purveyor to English palates of the
crude horrors which German romanticism had just ceased to revel in.
Lewis was engaged in compiling a book of supernatural stories and poems
under the title of _Tales of Wonder_, and asked Scott to contribute.
Scott wrote for this book three long ballads--"Glenfinlas," "Cadyow
Castle," and "The Gray Brother." Though tainted with the conventional
diction of eighteenth century verse, these ballads are not unimpressive
pieces of work; the second named, especially, shows a kind and degree of
romantic imagination such as his later poetry rather substantiated than
In the following year, 1797, Scott married a Miss Charpentier, daughter
of a French refugee. She was not his first love, that place having been
usurped by a Miss Stuart Belches, for whom Scott had felt perhaps the
only deep passion of his life, and memory of whom was to come to the
surface touchingly in his old age. Miss Charpentier, or Carpenter, as
she was called, with her vivacity and quaint foreign speech "caught his
heart on the rebound"; there can be no doubt that, in spite of a certain
shallowness of character, she made him a good wife, and that his
affection for her deepened steadily to the end. The young couple went to
live at Lasswade, a village near Edinburgh, on the Esk. Scott, in whom
the proprietary instinct was always very strong, took great pride in the
pretty little cottage. He made a dining-table for it with his own hands,
planted saplings in the yard, and drew together two willow-trees at the
gate into a kind of arch, surmounted by a cross made of two sticks.
"After I had constructed this," he says, "mamma (Mrs. Scott) and I both
of us thought it so fine that we turned out to see it by moonlight, and
walked backwards from it to the cottage door, in admiration of our
magnificence and its picturesque effect." It would have been well
indeed for them both if their pleasures of proprietorship could always
have remained so touchingly simple.
Now that he was married, Scott was forced to look a little more sharply
to his fortunes. He applied himself with more determination to the law.
In 1799 he became deputy-sheriff of Selkirkshire, with a salary of three
hundred pounds, which placed him at least beyond the reach of want. He
began to look more and more to literature as a means of supplementing
his income. His ballads in the _Tales of Wonder_ had gained him some
reputation; this he increased in 1802 by the publication, under the
title _Border Minstrelsy_, of the ballads which he had for several years
been collecting, collating, and richly annotating. Meanwhile he was
looking about for a congenial subject upon which to try his hand in a
larger way than he had as yet adventured. Such a subject came to him at
last in a manner calculated to enlist all his enthusiasm in its
treatment, for it was given him by the Countess of Dalkeith, wife of the
heir-apparent to the dukedom of Buccleugh. The ducal house of Buccleugh
stood at the head of the clan Scott, and toward its representative the
poet always held himself in an attitude of feudal reverence. The Duke of
Buccleugh was his "chief," entitled to demand from him both passive
loyalty and active service; so, at least, Scott loved to interpret their
relationship, making effective in his own case a feudal sentiment which
had elsewhere somewhat lapsed. He especially loved to think of himself
as the bard of his clan, a modern representative of those rude poets
whom the Scottish chiefs once kept as a part of their household to chant
the exploits of the clan. Nothing could have pleased his fancy more,
therefore, than a request on the part of the lady of his chief to treat
a subject of her assigning--namely, the dark mischief-making of a dwarf
or goblin who had strayed from his unearthly master and attached himself
as page to a human household. The subject fell in with the poet's
reigning taste for strong supernaturalism. Gilpin Horner, the goblin
page, though he proved in the sequel a difficult character to put to
poetic use, was a figure grotesque and eerie enough to appeal even to
Monk Lewis. At first Scott thought of treating the subject in
ballad-form, but the scope of treatment was gradually enlarged by
several circumstances. To begin with, he chanced upon a copy of Goethe's
_Götz von Berlichingen_, and the history of that robber baron suggested
to him the feasibility of throwing the same vivid light upon the old
Border life of his ancestors as Goethe had thrown upon that of the Rhine
barons. This led him to subordinate the part played by the goblin page
in the proposed story, which was now widened to include elaborate
pictures of medieval life and manners, and to lay the scene in the
castle of Branksome, formerly the stronghold of Scott's and the Duke of
Buccleugh's ancestors. The verse form into which the story was thrown
was due to a still more accidental circumstance, i.e., Scott's
overhearing Sir John Stoddard recite a fragment of Coleridge's
unpublished poem "Christabel." The placing of the story in the mouth of
an old harper fallen upon evil days, was a happy afterthought; besides
making a beautiful framework for the main poem, it enabled the author to
escape criticism for any violent innovations of style, since these could
always be attributed to the rude and wild school of poetry to which the
harper was supposed to belong. In these ways _The Lay of the Last
Minstrel_ gradually developed in its present form. Upon its publication
in 1805, it achieved an immediate success. The vividness of its
descriptive passages, the buoyant rush of its meter, the deep romantic
glow suffusing all its pages, took by storm a public familiar to
weariness with the decorous abstractions of the eighteenth century
poets. The first edition, a sumptuous quarto, was exhausted in a few
weeks; an octavo edition of fifteen hundred was sold out within the
year; and before 1830, forty-four thousand copies were needed to supply
the popular demand. Scott received in all something under eight hundred
pounds for the _Lay_, a small amount when contrasted with his gains from
subsequent poems, but a sum so unusual nevertheless that he determined
forthwith to devote as much time to literature as he could spare from
his legal duties; those he still placed foremost, for until near the
close of his life he clung to his adage that literature was "a good
staff, but a poor crutch."
A year before the publication of the _Lay_, Scott had removed to the
small country seat of Ashestiel, in Selkirkshire, seven miles from the
nearest town, Selkirk, and several miles from any neighbor. In the
introductions to the various cantos of _Marmion_ he has given us a
delightful picture of Ashestiel and its surroundings--the swift
Glenkinnon dashing through the estate in a deep ravine, on its way to
join the Tweed; behind the house the rising hills beyond which lay the
lovely scenery of the Yarrow. The eight years (1804-1812) at Ashestiel
were the serenest, and probably the happiest, of Scott's life. Here he
wrote his two greatest poems, _Marmion_ and _The Lady of the Lake_. His
mornings he spent at his desk, always with a faithful hound at his feet
watching the tireless hand as it threw off sheet after sheet of
manuscript to make up the day's stint. By one o'clock he was, as he
said, "his own man," free to spend the remaining hours of light with his
children, his horses, and his dogs, or to indulge himself in his
life-long passion for tree-planting. His robust and healthy nature made
him excessively fond of all out-of-door sports, especially riding, in
which he was daring to foolhardiness. It is a curious fact, noted by
Lockhart, that many of Scott's senses were blunt; he could scarcely,
for instance, tell one wine from another by the taste, and once sat
quite unconscious at his table while his guests were manifesting extreme
uneasiness over the approach of a too-long-kept haunch of venison, but
his sight was unusually keen, as his hunting exploits proved. His little
son once explained his father's popularity by saying that "it was him
that commonly saw the hare sitting." What with hunting, fishing,
salmon-spearing by torchlight, gallops over the hills into the Yarrow
country, planting and transplanting of his beloved trees, Scott's life
at Ashestiel, during the hours when he was "his own man," was a very
full and happy one.
Unfortunately, he had already embarked in an enterprise which was
destined to overthrow his fortunes just when they seemed fairest. While
at school in Kelso he had become intimate with a school fellow named
James Ballantyne, and later, when Ballantyne set up a small printing
house in Kelso, he had given him his earliest poems to print. After the
issue of the _Border Minstrelsy_, the typographical excellence of which
attracted attention even in London, he set Ballantyne up in business in
Edinburgh, secretly entering the firm himself as silent partner. The
good sale of the _Lay_ had given the firm an excellent start; but more
matter was presently needed to feed the press. To supply it, Scott
undertook and completed at Ashestiel four enormous tasks of
editing--the complete works of Dryden and of Swift, the Somers' Tracts,
and the Sadler State Papers. The success of these editions, and the
subsequent enormous sale of Scott's poems and novels, would have kept
the concern solvent in spite of Ballantyne's complete incapacity for
business, but in 1809 Scott plunged recklessly into another and more
serious venture. A dispute with Constable, the veteran publisher and
bookseller, aggravated by the harsh criticism delivered upon _Marmion_
by Francis Jeffrey, editor of the _Edinburgh Review_, Constable's
magazine, determined Scott to set up in connection with the Ballantyne
press a rival bookselling concern, and a rival magazine, to be called
the _Quarterly Review_. The project was a daring one, in view of
Constable's great ability and resources; to make it foolhardy to madness
Scott selected to manage the new business a brother of James Ballantyne,
a dissipated little buffoon, with about as much business ability and
general caliber of character as is connoted by the name which Scott
coined for him, "Rigdumfunnidos." The selection of such a man for such a
place betrays in Scott's eminently sane and balanced mind a curious
strain of impracticality, to say the least; indeed, we are almost
constrained to feel with his harsher critics that it betrays something
worse than defective judgment--defective character. His greatest
failing, if failing it can be called, was pride. He could not endure
even the mild dictations of a competent publisher, as is shown by his
answer to a letter written by one of them proposing some salaried work;
he replied curtly that he was a "black Hussar" of literature, and not to
be put to such tame service. Probably this haughty dislike of dictation,
this imperious desire to patronize rather than be patronized, led him to
choose inferior men with whom to enter into business relations. If so,
he paid for the fault so dearly that it is hard for a biographer to
press the issue against him.
For the present, however, the wind of fortune was blowing fair, and all
the storm clouds were below the horizon. In 1808 _Marmion_ appeared, and
was greeted with an enthusiasm which made the unprecedented reception of
the _Lay_ seem lukewarm in comparison. _Marmion_ contains nothing which
was not plainly foreshadowed in the _Lay_, but the hand of the poet has
grown more sure, his descriptive effects are less crude and amateurish,
the narrative proceeds with a steadier march, the music has gained in
volume and in martial vigor. An anecdote is told by Mr. Hutton which
will serve as a type of a hundred others illustrative of the
extraordinary hold which this poetry took upon the minds of ordinary
men. "I have heard," he says, "of two old men--complete
strangers--passing each other on a dark London night, when one of them
happened to be repeating to himself, just as Campbell did to the
hackney coachman of the North Bridge of Edinburgh, the last lines of the
account of Flodden Field in _Marmion_, 'Charge, Chester, charge,' when
suddenly a reply came out of the darkness, 'On, Stanley, on,' whereupon
they finished the death of _Marmion_ between them, took off their hats
to each other, and parted, laughing." _The Lady of the Lake_, which
followed in little more than a year, was received with the same popular
delight, and with even greater respect on the part of the critics. Even
the formidable Jeffrey, who was supposed to dine off slaughtered authors
as the Giant in "Jack and the Beanstalk" dined off young Englishmen,
keyed his voice to unwonted praise. The influx of tourists into the
Trossachs, where the scene of the poem was laid, was so great as
seriously to embarrass the mail coaches, until at last the posting
charges had to be raised in order to diminish the traffic. Far away in
Spain, at a trying moment of the Peninsular campaign, Sir Adam Ferguson,
posted on a point of ground exposed to the enemy's fire, read to his men
as they lay prostrate on the ground the passage from _The Lady of the
Lake_ describing the combat between Roderick Dhu's Highlanders and the
forces of the Earl of Mar; and "the listening soldiers only interrupted
him by a joyous huzza when the French shot struck the bank close above
them." Such tributes--and they were legion--to the power of his poetry
to move adventurous and hardy men, must have been intoxicating to
Scott; there is small wonder that the success of his poems gave him, as
he says, "such a _heeze_ as almost lifted him off his feet."
Scott's modesty was not in danger, but so far as his prudence was
concerned, his success did really lift him off his feet. In 1812, still
more encouraged thereto by entering upon the emoluments of the office of
Clerk of Sessions, the duties of which he had performed for six years
without pay, he purchased Abbotsford, an estate on the Tweed, adjoining
that of the Duke of Buccleugh, his kinsman, and near the beautiful ruins
of Melrose Abbey. Here he began to carry out the dream of his life, to
found a territorial family which should augment the power and fame of
his clan. Beginning with a modest farm house and a farm of a hundred
acres, he gradually bought, planted, and built, until the farm became a
manorial domain and the farm house a castle. He had not gone far in this
work before he began to realize that the returns from his poetry would
never suffice to meet such demands as would thus be made upon his purse.
Byron's star was in the ascendant, and before its baleful magnificence
Scott's milder and more genial light visibly paled. He was himself the
first to declare, with characteristic generosity, that the younger poet
had "bet" him at his own craft. As Carlyle says, "he had held the
sovereignty for some half-score of years, a comparatively long lease of
it, and now the time seemed come for dethronement, for abdication. An
unpleasant business; which, however, he held himself ready, as a brave
man will, to transact with composure and in silence."
[Footnote 3: Bested, got the better of.]
But, as it proved, there was no need for resignation. The reign of
metrical romance, brilliant but brief, was past, or nearly so. But what
of prose romance, which long ago, in picking out _Don Quixote_ from the
puzzling Spanish, he had promised himself he would one day attempt? With
some such questioning of the Fates, Scott drew from his desk the sheets
of a story begun seven years before, and abandoned because of the
success of _The Lay of the Last Minstrel_. This story he now completed,
and published as _Waverley_ in the spring of 1814--an event "memorable
in the annals of British literature; in the annals of British
bookselling thrice and four times memorable." The popularity of the
metrical romances dwindled to insignificance before the enthusiasm with
which this prose romance was received. A moment before quietly resolved
to give up his place in the world's eye, and to live the life of an
obscure country gentleman, Scott found himself launched once more on the
tide of brave fortunes. The Ballantyne publishing and printing houses
ceased to totter, and settled themselves on what seemed the firmest of
foundations. At Abbotsford, buying, planting, and building began on a
greater scale than had ever been planned in its owner's most sanguine
The history of the next eleven years in Scott's life is the history, on
the one hand, of the rapidly-appearing novels, of a fame gradually
spreading outward from Great Britain until it covered the civilized
world--a fame increased rather than diminished by the _incognito_ which
the "author of _Waverley_" took great pains to preserve even after the
secret had become an open one; on the other hand, of the large-hearted,
hospitable life at Abbotsford, where, in spite of the importunities of
curious and ill-bred tourists, bent on getting a glimpse of the "Wizard
of the North," and in spite of the enormous mass of work, literary and
official, which Scott took upon himself to perform, the atmosphere of
country leisure and merriment was somehow miraculously preserved. This
life of the hearty prosperous country laird was the one toward the
realization of which all Scott's efforts were directed; it is worth
while, therefore, to see as vividly as may be, what kind of life that
was, that we may the better understand what kind of man he was who cared
for it. The following extract from Lockhart's _Life of Scott_ gives us
at least one very characteristic aspect of the Abbotsford world:
"It was a clear, bright September morning, with a sharpness in the
air that doubled the animating influence of the sunshine; and all
was in readiness for a grand coursing-match on Newark Hill. The
only guest who had chalked out other sport for himself was the
staunchest of anglers, Mr. Rose; but he, too, was there on his
_shelty_, armed with his salmon-rod and landing-net.... This little
group of Waltonians, bound for Lord Somerville's preserve, remained
lounging about, to witness the start of the main cavalcade. Sir
Walter, mounted on Sibyl, was marshalling the order of procession
with a huge hunting-whip; and among a dozen frolicsome youths and
maidens, who seemed disposed to laugh at all discipline, appeared,
each on horseback, each as eager as the youngest sportsman in the
troop, Sir Humphrey Davy, Dr. Wollaston, and the patriarch of
Scottish belles-lettres, Henry Mackenzie.... Laidlow (the steward
of Abbotsford) on a strong-tailed wiry Highlander, yclept Hoddin
Grey, which carried him nimbly and stoutly, although his feet
almost touched the ground, was the adjutant. But the most
picturesque figure was the illustrious inventor of the safety-lamp
(Sir Humphrey Davy) ... a brown hat with flexible brim, surrounded
with line upon line of catgut, and innumerable fly-hooks; jackboots
worthy of a Dutch smuggler, and a fustian surtout dabbled with the
blood of salmon, made a fine contrast with the smart jacket,
white-cord breeches, and well-polished jockey-boots of the less
distinguished cavaliers about him. Dr. Wollaston was in black; and
with his noble serene dignity of countenance might have passed for
a sporting archbishop. Mr. Mackenzie, at this time in the
seventy-sixth year of his age, with a hat turned up with green,
green spectacles, green jacket, and long brown leathern gaiters
buttoned upon his nether anatomy, wore a dog-whistle round his
neck.... Tom Purdie (one of Scott's servants) and his subalterns
had preceded us by a few hours with all the grey-hounds that could
be collected at Abbotsford, Darnick, and Melrose; but the giant
Maida had remained as his master's orderly, and now gamboled about
Sibyl Grey barking for mere joy like a spaniel puppy.
"The order of march had all been settled, when Scott's daughter
Anne broke from the line, screaming with laughter, and exclaimed,
'Papa, papa, I knew you could never think of going without your
pet!' Scott looked round, and I rather think there was a blush as
well as a smile upon his face, when he perceived a little black pig
frisking about his pony, evidently a self-elected addition to the
party of the day. He tried to look stern, and cracked his whip at
the creature, but was in a moment obliged to join in the general
cheers. Poor piggy soon found a strap round its neck, and was
dragged into the background; Scott, watching the retreat, repeated
with mock pathos, the first verse of an old pastoral song--
What will I do gin my hoggie die?
My joy, my pride, my hoggie!
My only beast, I had na mae,
And wow, but I was vogie!
--the cheers were redoubled--and the squadron moved on."
Let us supplement this with one more picture, from the same hand,
showing Scott in a little more intimate light. The passage was written
in 1821, after Lockhart had married Scott's eldest daughter, and gone
to spend the summer at Chiefswood, a cottage on the Abbotsford estate:
"We were near enough Abbotsford to partake as often as we liked of
its brilliant and constantly varying society; yet could do so
without being exposed to the worry and exhaustion of spirit which
the daily reception of new-comers entailed upon all the family,
except Scott himself. But in truth, even he was not always proof
against the annoyances connected with such a style of open
house-keeping.... When sore beset at home in this way, he would
every now and then discover that he had some very particular
business to attend to on an outlying part of his estate, and
craving the indulgence of his guests overnight, appear at the cabin
in the glen before its inhabitants were astir in the morning. The
clatter of Sibyl Grey's hoofs, the yelping of Mustard and Spice,
and his own joyous shout of _réveillée_ under our windows, were the
signal that he had burst his toils, and meant for that day to 'take
his ease in his inn.' On descending, he was found to be seated with
all his dogs and ours about him, under a spreading ash that
overshadowed half the bank between the cottage and the brook,
pointing the edge of his woodman's axe, and listening to Tom
Purdie's lecture touching the plantation that most needed thinning.
After breakfast he would take possession of a dressing-room
upstairs, and write a chapter of _The Pirate_; and then, having
made up and despatched his packet for Mr. Ballantyne, away to join
Purdie wherever the foresters were at work ... until it was time to
rejoin his own party at Abbotsford or the quiet circle of the
cottage. When his guests were few and friendly, he often made them
come over and meet him at Chiefswood in a body towards evening....
He was ready with all sorts of devices to supply the wants of a
narrow establishment; he used to delight particularly in sinking
the wine in a well under the _brae_ ere he went out, and hauling up
the basket just before dinner was announced,--this primitive device
being, he said, what he had always practised when a young
housekeeper, and in his opinion far superior in its results to any
application of ice; and in the same spirit, whenever the weather
was sufficiently genial, he voted for dining out of doors
Few events of importance except the successive appearances of "our
buiks" as Tom Purdie called his master's novels, and an occasional visit
to London or the continent, intervened to break the busy monotony of
this Abbotsford life. On one of these visits to London, Scott was
invited to dine with the Prince Regent, and when the prince became King
George IV, in 1820, almost the first act of his reign was to create
Scott a baronet. Scott accepted the honor gratefully, as coming, he
said, "from the original source of all honor." There can well be two
opinions as to whether this least admirable of English kings constituted
a very prime fountain of honor, judged by democratic standards; but to
Scott's mind, such an imputation would have been next to sacrilege. The
feudal bias of his mind, strong to start with, had been strengthened by
his long sojourn among the visions of a feudal past; the ideals of
feudalism were living realities to him; and he accepted knighthood from
his king's hand in exactly the same spirit which determined his attitude
of humility towards his "chief," the Duke of Buccleugh, and which
impelled him to exhaust his genius in the effort to build up a great
There were already signs that the enormous burden of work under which he
seemed to move so lightly, was telling on him. _The Bride of
Lammermoor_, _The Legend of Montrose_, and _Ivanhoe_, had all of them
been dictated between screams of pain, wrung from his lips by a chronic
cramp of the stomach. By the time he reached _Redgauntlet_ and _St.
Ronan's Well_, there began to be heard faint murmurings of discontent
from his public, hints that he was writing too fast, and that the noble
wine he had poured them for so long was growing at last a trifle watery.
To add to these causes of uneasiness, the commercial ventures in which
he was interested drifted again into a precarious state. He had himself
fallen into the bad habit of forestalling the gains from his novels by
heavy drafts on his publishers, and the example thus set was followed
faithfully by John Ballantyne. Scott's good humor and his partner's bad
judgment saddled the concern with a lot of unsalable books. In 1818 the
affairs of the book-selling business had to be closed up, Constable
taking over the unsalable stock and assuming the outstanding liabilities
in return for copyright privileges covering some of Scott's novels.
This so burdened the veteran publisher that when, in 1825, a large
London firm failed, it carried him down also--and with him James
Ballantyne, with whom he had entered into close relations. Scott's
secret connection with Ballantyne had continued; accordingly he woke up
one fine day to find himself worse than beggared, being personally
liable for one hundred and thirty thousand pounds.
The years intervening between this calamity and Scott's death form one
of the saddest and at the same time most heroic chapters in the history
of literature. The fragile health of Lady Scott succumbed almost
immediately to the crushing blow, and she died in a few months. Scott
surrendered Abbotsford to his creditors and took up humble lodgings in
Edinburgh. Here, with a pride and stoical courage as quiet as it was
splendid, he settled down to fill with the earnings of his pen the vast
gulf of debt for which he was morally scarcely responsible at all. In
three years he wrote _Woodstock_, three _Chronicles of the Canongate_,
the _Fair Maid of Perth_, _Anne of Geierstein_, the first series of the
_Tales of a Grandfather_, and a _Life of Napoleon_, equal to thirteen
volumes of novel size, besides editing and annotating a complete edition
of his own works. All these together netted his creditors £40,000.
Touched by the efforts he was making to settle their claims, they now
presented him with Abbotsford, and thither he returned to spend the few
years remaining to him. In 1830 he suffered a first stroke of paralysis;
refusing to give up, however, he made one more desperate rally to
recapture his old power of story-telling. _Count Robert of Paris_ and
_Castle Dangerous_ were the pathetic result; they are not to be taken
into account, in any estimate of his powers, for they are manifestly the
work of a paralytic patient. The gloomy picture is darkened by an
incident which illustrates strikingly one phase of Scott's character.
The great Reform Bill was being discussed throughout Scotland, menacing
what were really abuses, but what Scott, with his intense conservatism,
believed to be sacred and inviolable institutions. The dying man roused
himself to make a stand against the abominable bill. In a speech which
he made at Jedburgh, he was hissed and hooted by the crowd, and he left
the town with the dastardly cry of "Burk Sir Walter!" ringing in his
Nature now intervened to ease the intolerable strain. Scott's anxiety
concerning his debt gradually gave way to an hallucination that it had
all been paid. His friends took advantage of the quietude which followed
to induce him to make the journey to Italy, in the fear that the severe
winter of Scotland would prove fatal. A ship of His Majesty's fleet was
put at his disposal, and he set sail for Malta. The youthful
adventurousness of the man flared up again oddly for a moment, when he
insisted on being set ashore upon a volcanic island in the Mediterranean
which had appeared but a few days before and which sank beneath the
surface shortly after. The climate of Malta at first appeared to benefit
him; but when he heard, one day, of the death of Goethe at Weimar, he
seemed seized with a sudden apprehension of his own end, and insisted
upon hurrying back through Europe, in order that he might look once more
on Abbotsford. On the ride from Edinburgh he remained for the first two
stages entirely unconscious. But as the carriage entered the valley of
the Gala he opened his eyes and murmured the name of objects as they
passed, "Gala water, surely--Buckholm--Torwoodlee." When the towers of
Abbotsford came in view, he was so filled with delight that he could
scarcely be restrained from leaping out. At the gates he greeted
faithful Laidlaw in a voice strong and hearty as of old: "Why, man, how
often I have thought of you!" and smiled and wept over the dogs who came
rushing as in bygone times to lick his hand. He died a few days later,
on the afternoon of a glorious autumn day, with all the windows open, so
that he might catch to the last the whisper of the Tweed over its
"And so," says Carlyle, "the curtain falls; and the strong Walter Scott
is with us no more. A possession from him does remain; widely
scattered; yet attainable; not inconsiderable. It can be said of him,
when he departed, he took a Man's life along with him. No sounder piece
of British manhood was put together in that eighteenth century of Time.
Alas, his fine Scotch face, with its shaggy honesty, sagacity and
goodness, when we saw it latterly on the Edinburgh streets, was all worn
with care, the joy all fled from it--plowed deep with labor and sorrow.
We shall never forget it; we shall never see it again. Adieu, Sir
Walter, pride of all Scotchmen, take our proud and sad farewell."
II. SCOTT'S PLACE IN THE ROMANTIC MOVEMENT
In order rightly to appreciate the poetry of Scott it is necessary to
understand something of that remarkable "Romantic Movement" which took
place toward the end of the eighteenth century, and within a space of
twenty-five years completely changed the face of English literature.
Both the causes and the effects of this movement were much more than
merely literary; the "romantic revival" penetrated every crevice and
ramification of life in those parts of Europe which it affected; its
social, political, and religious results were all deeply significant.
But we must here confine ourselves to such aspects of the revival as
showed themselves in English poetry.
Eighteenth century poetry had been distinguished by its polish, its
formal correctness, or--to use a term in much favor with critics of that
day--its "elegance." The various and wayward metrical effects of the
Elizabethan and Jacobean poets had been discarded for a few
well-recognized verse forms, which themselves in turn had become still
further limited by the application to them of precise rules of
structure. Hand in hand with this restricting process in meter, had gone
a similar tendency in diction. The simple, concrete phrases of daily
speech had given way to stately periphrases; the rich and riotous
vocabulary of earlier poetry had been replaced by one more decorous,
measured, and high-sounding. A corresponding process of selection and
exclusion was applied to the subject matter of poetry. Passion, lyric
exaltation, delight in the concrete life of man and nature, passed out
of fashion; in their stead came social satire, criticism, generalized
observation. While the classical influence, as it is usually called, was
at its height, with such men as Dryden and Pope to exemplify it, it did
a great work; but toward the end of the eighth decade of the eighteenth
century it had visibly run to seed. The feeble Hayley, the silly Della
Crusca, the arid Erasmus Darwin, were its only exemplars. England was
ripe for a literary revolution, a return to nature and to passion; and
such a revolution was not slow in coming.
It announced itself first in George Crabbe, who turned to paint the life
of the poor with patient realism; in Burns, who poured out in his songs
the passion of love, the passion of sorrow, the passion of conviviality;
in Blake, who tried to reach across the horizon of visible fact to
mystical heavens of more enduring reality. Following close upon these
men came the four poets destined to accomplish the revolution which the
early comers had begun. They were born within four years of each other,
Wordsworth in 1770, Scott in 1771, Coleridge in 1772, Southey in 1774.
As we look at these four men now, and estimate their worth as poets, we
see that Southey drops almost out of the account, and that Wordsworth
and Coleridge stand, so far as the highest qualities of poetry go, far
above Scott, as, indeed, Blake and Burns do also. But the contemporary
judgment upon them was directly the reverse; and Scott's poetry
exercised an influence over his age immeasurably greater than that of
any of the other three. Let us attempt to discover what qualities this
poetry possessed which gave it its astonishing hold upon the age when it
was written. In so doing, we may discover indirectly some of the reasons
why it still retains a large portion of its popularity, and perhaps
arrive at some grounds of judgment by which we may test its right
One reason why Scott's poetry was immediately welcomed, while that of
Wordsworth and of Coleridge lay neglected, is to be found in the fact
that in the matter of diction Scott was much less revolutionary than
they. By nature and education he was conservative; he put _The Lay of
the Last Minstrel_ into the mouth of a rude harper of the North in order
to shield himself from the charge of "attempting to set up a new school
in poetry," and he never throughout his life violated the conventions,
literary or social, if he could possibly avoid doing so. This bias
toward conservatism and conventionality shows itself particularly in
the language of his poems. He was compelled, of course, to use much
more concrete and vivid terms than the eighteenth century poets had
used, because he was dealing with much more concrete and vivid matter;
but his language, nevertheless, has a prevailing stateliness, and at
times an artificiality, which recommended it to readers tired of the
inanities of Hayley and Mason, but unwilling to accept the startling
simplicity and concreteness of diction exemplified by the Lake poets at
Another peculiarity of Scott's poetry which made powerfully for its
popularity, was its spirited meter. People were weary of the heroic
couplet, and turned eagerly to these hurried verses, that went on their
way with the sharp tramp of moss-troopers, and heated the blood like a
drum. The meters of Coleridge, subtle, delicate, and poignant, had been
passed by with indifference--had not been heard perhaps, for lack of
ears trained to hear; but Scott's metrical effects were such as a child
could appreciate, and a soldier could carry in his head.
Analogous to this treatment of meter, though belonging to a less formal
side of his art, was Scott's treatment of nature, the landscape setting
of his stories. Perhaps the most obvious feature of the romantic revival
was a reawakening of interest in out-door nature. It was as if for a
hundred years past people had been stricken blind as soon as they passed
from the city streets into the country. A trim garden, an artfully
placed country house, a well-kept preserve, they might see; but for the
great shaggy world of mountain and sea--it had been shut out of man's
elegant vision. Before Scott began to write there had been no lack of
prophets of the new nature-worship, but none of them of a sort to catch
the general ear. Wordsworth's pantheism was too mystical, too delicate
and intuitive, to recommend itself to any but chosen spirits; Crabbe's
descriptions were too minute, Coleridge's too intense, to please. Scott
was the first to paint nature with a broad, free touch, without raptures
or philosophizing, but with a healthy pleasure in its obvious beauties,
such as appeal to average men. His "scenery" seldom exists for its own
sake, but serves, as it should, for background and setting of his story.
As his readers followed the fortunes of William of Deloraine or Roderick
Dhu, they traversed by sunlight and by moonlight landscapes of wild
romantic charm, and felt their beauty quite naturally, as a part of the
excitement of that wild life. They felt it the more readily because of a
touch of artificial stateliness in the handling, a slight theatrical
heightening of effect--from an absolute point of view a defect, but
highly congenial to the taste of the time. It was the scenic side of
nature which Scott gave, and gave inimitably, while Burns was piercing
to the inner heart of her tenderness in his lines "To a Mountain Daisy"
and "To a Mouse," while Wordsworth was mystically communing with her
soul, in his "Tintern Abbey." It was the scenic side of nature for which
the perceptions of men were ripe; so they left profounder poets to their
musings, and followed after the poet who could give them a brilliant
story set in a brilliant scene.
Again, the emotional key to Scott's poetry was on a comprehensible
plane. The situations with which he deals, the passions, ambitions,
satisfactions, which he portrays, belong, in one form or another, to all
men, or at least are easily grasped by the imaginations of all men. It
has often been said that Scott is the most Homeric of English poets; so
far as the claim rests on considerations of style, it is hardly to be
granted, for nothing could be farther than the hurrying torrent of
Scott's verse from the "long and refluent music" of Homer. But in this
other respect, that he deals in the rudimentary stuff of human character
in a straightforward way, without a hint of modern complexities and
super-subtleties, he is really akin to the master poet of antiquity.
This, added to the crude wild life which he pictures, the vigorous sweep
of his action, the sincere glow of romance which bathes his story--all
so tonic in their effect upon minds long used to the stuffy decorum of
didactic poetry, completed the triumph of _The Lay of the Last
Minstrel_, _Marmion_, and _The Lady of the Lake_, over their age.
As has been already suggested, Scott cannot be put in the first rank of
poets. No compromise can be made on this point, because upon it the
whole theory of poetry depends. Neither on the formal nor on the
essential sides of his art is he among the small company of the supreme.
And no one understood this better than himself. He touched the keynote
of his own power, though with too great modesty, when he said, "I am
sensible that if there is anything good about my poetry ... it is a
hurried frankness of composition which pleases soldiers, sailors, and
young people of bold and active dispositions." The poet Campbell, who
was so fascinated by Scott's ballad of "Cadyow Castle" that he used to
repeat it aloud on the North Bridge of Edinburgh until "the whole
fraternity of coachmen knew him by tongue as he passed," characterizes
the predominant charm of Scott's poetry as lying in a "strong, pithy
eloquence," which is perhaps only another name for "hurried frankness of
composition." If this is not the highest quality to which poetry can
attain, it is a very admirable one; and it will be a sad day for the
English-speaking race when there shall not be found persons of every age
and walk of life, to take the same delights in these stirring poems as
their author loved to think was taken by "soldiers, sailors, and young
people of bold and active dispositions."
III. THE LADY OF THE LAKE
1. HISTORICAL SETTING
_The Lady of the Lake_ deals with a distinct epoch in the life of King
James V of Scotland, and has lying back of it a considerable amount of
historical fact, an understanding of which will help in the appreciation
of the poem. During his minority the King was under the tutelage of
Archibald Douglas, sixth Earl of Angus, who had married the King's
mother. The young monarch chafed for a long time under this authority,
but the Douglases were so powerful that he was unable to shake it off,
in spite of several desperate attempts on the part of his sympathizers
to rescue him. In 1528 the King, then sixteen years of age, escaped from
his own castle of Falkland to Stirling Castle. The governor of Stirling,
an enemy of the Douglas family, received him joyfully. There soon
gathered about his standard a sufficient number of powerful peers to
enable him to depose the Earl of Angus from the regency and to banish
him and all his family to England. The Douglas who figures in the poem
is an imaginary uncle of the banished regent, and himself under the ban,
compelled to hide away in the shelter provided for him by Roderick Dhu
on the lonely island in Loch Katrine. He is represented as having been
loved and trusted by King James during the boyhood of the latter, before
the enmity sprang up between the house of Angus and the throne. This
enmity, to quote from the _History of the House of Douglas_, published
at Edinburgh in 1743, "was so inveterate, that numerous as their allies
were, their nearest friends, even in the most remote parts of Scotland,
durst not entertain them, unless under the strictest and closest
The outlawed border chieftain, Roderick Dhu, who gives shelter to the
persecuted Douglas, is a fictitious character, but one entirely typical
of the time and place. The expedition undertaken by the young King
against the Border clans, under the guise of a hunting party, is in
part, at least, historic. Pitscottie's History says: "In 1529 James V
made a convention at Edinburgh for the purpose of considering the best
mode of quelling the Border robbers, who, during the license of his
minority and the troubles which followed, had committed many
exorbitances. Accordingly, he assembled a flying army of ten thousand
men, consisting of his principal nobility and their followers, who were
directed to bring their hawks and dogs with them, that the monarch might
refresh himself with sport during the intervals of military execution.
With this array he swept through Ettrick forest, where he hanged over
the gate of his own castle Piers Cockburn of Henderland, who had
prepared, according to tradition, a feast for his reception."
2. GENERAL CRITICISM AND ANALYSIS
_The Lady of the Lake_ appeared in 1810. Two years before, _Marmion_ had
vastly increased the popular enthusiasm aroused by _The Lay of the Last
Minstrel_, and the success of his second long poem had so exhilarated
Scott that, as he says, he "felt equal to anything and everything." To
one of his kinswomen, who urged him not to jeopardize his fame by
another effort in the same kind, he gaily quoted the words of Montrose:
He either fears his fate too much
Or his deserts are small,
Who dares not put it to the touch,
To win or lose it all.
The result justified his confidence; for not only was _The Lady of the
Lake_ as successful as its predecessors, but it remains the most
sterling of Scott's poems. The somewhat cheap supernaturalism of the
_Lay_ appears in it only for a moment; both the story and the characters
are of a less theatrical type than in _Marmion_; and it has a glow,
animation, and onset, which was denied to the later poems, _Rokeby_ and
_The Lord of the Isles_.
The following outline abridged from the excellent one given by Francis
Jeffrey in the _Edinburgh Review_ for August, 1810, will be useful as a
basis for criticism of the matter and style of the poem.
"The first canto begins with a description of a staghunt in the
Highlands of Perthshire. As the chase lengthens, the sportsmen drop
off; till at last the foremost horseman is left alone; and his
horse, overcome with fatigue, stumbles and dies. The adventurer,
climbing up a craggy eminence, discovers Loch Katrine spread out in
evening glory before him. The huntsman winds his horn; and sees, to
his infinite surprise, a little skiff, guided by a lovely woman,
glide from beneath the trees that overhang the water, and approach
the shore at his feet. Upon the stranger's approach, she pushes the
shallop from the shore in alarm. After a short parley, however, she
carries him to a woody island, where she leads him into a sort of
silvan mansion, rudely constructed, and hung round with trophies of
war and the chase. An elderly lady is introduced at supper; and the
stranger, after disclosing himself to be 'James Fitz-James, the
knight of Snowdoun,' tries in vain to discover the name and history
of the ladies.
"The second canto opens with a picture of the aged harper,
Allan-bane, sitting on the island beach with the damsel, watching
the skiff which carries the stranger back to land. A conversation
ensues, from which the reader gathers that the lady is a daughter
of the Douglas, who, being exiled by royal displeasure from court,
had accepted this asylum from Sir Roderick Dhu, a Highland
chieftain long outlawed for deeds of blood; that this dark chief is
in love with his fair _protégée_, but that her affections are
engaged to Malcolm Graeme, a younger and more amiable mountaineer.
The sound of distant music is heard on the lake; and the barges of
Sir Roderick are discovered, proceeding in triumph to the island.
Ellen, hearing her father's horn at that instant on the opposite
shore, flies to meet him and Malcolm Graeme, who is received with
cold and stately civility by the lord of the isle. Sir Roderick
informs the Douglas that his retreat has been discovered, and that
the King (James V), under pretence of hunting, has assembled a
large force in the neighborhood. He then proposes impetuously that
they should unite their fortunes by his marriage with Ellen, and
rouse the whole Western Highlands. The Douglas, intimating that his
daughter has repugnances which she cannot overcome, declares that
he will retire to a cave in the neighboring mountains until the
issue of the King's threat is seen. The heart of Roderick is wrung
with agony at this rejection; and when Malcolm advances to Ellen,
he pushes him violently back--and a scuffle ensues, which is with
difficulty appeased by the giant arm of Douglas. Malcolm then
withdraws in proud resentment, plunges into the water, and swims
over by moonlight to the mainland.
"The third canto opens with an account of the ceremonies employed
in summoning the clan. This is accomplished by the consecration of
a small wooden cross, which, with its points scorched and dipped in
blood, is carried with incredible celerity through the whole
territory of the chieftain. The eager fidelity with which this
fatal signal is carried on, is represented with great spirit. A
youth starts from the side of his father's coffin, to bear it
forward, and, having run his stage, delivers it to a young
bridegroom returning from church, who instantly binds his plaid
around him, and rushes onward. In the meantime Douglas and his
daughter have taken refuge in the mountain cave; and Sir Roderick,
passing near their retreat on his way to the muster, hears Ellen's
voice singing her evening hymn to the Virgin. He does not obtrude
on her devotions, but hurries to the place of rendezvous.
"The fourth canto begins with some ceremonies by a wild hermit of
the clan, to ascertain the issue of the impending war; and this
oracle is obtained--that the party shall prevail which first sheds
the blood of its adversary. The scene then shifts to the retreat of
the Douglas, where the minstrel is trying to soothe Ellen in her
alarm at the disappearance of her father by singing a fairy ballad
to her. As the song ends, the knight of Snowdoun suddenly appears
before her, declares his love, and urges her to put herself under
his protection. Ellen throws herself on his generosity, confesses
her attachment to Graeme, and prevails on him to seek his own
safety by a speedy retreat from the territory of Roderick Dhu.
Before he goes, the stranger presents her with a ring, which he
says he has received from King James, with a promise to grant any
boon asked by the person producing it. As he retreats, his
suspicions are excited by the conduct of his guide, and confirmed
by the warnings of a mad woman whom they encounter. His false guide
discharges an arrow at him, which kills the maniac. The knight
slays the murderer; and learning from the expiring victim that her
brain had been turned by the cruelty of Sir Roderick Dhu, he vows
vengeance. When chilled with the midnight cold and exhausted with
fatigue, he suddenly comes upon a chief reposing by a lonely
watch-fire; and being challenged in the name of Roderick Dhu,
boldly avows himself his enemy. The clansman, however, disdains to
take advantage of a worn-out wanderer; and pledges him safe escort
out of Sir Roderick's territory, when he must answer his defiance
with his sword. The stranger accepts these chivalrous terms; and
the warriors sup and sleep together. This ends the fourth canto.
"At dawn, the knight and the mountaineer proceed toward the Lowland
frontier. A dispute arises concerning the character of Roderick
Dhu, and the knight expresses his desire to meet in person and do
vengeance upon the predatory chief. 'Have then thy wish!' answers
his guide; and gives a loud whistle. A whole legion of armed men
start up from their mountain ambush in the heath; while the chief
turns proudly and says, 'I am Roderick Dhu!' Sir Roderick then by a
signal dismisses his men to their concealment. Arrived at his
frontier, the chief forces the knight to stand upon his defense.
Roderick, after a hard combat is laid wounded on the ground;
Fitz-James, sounding his bugle, brings four squires to his side;
and, after giving the wounded chief into their charge, gallops
rapidly on towards Stirling. As he ascends the hill to the castle,
he descries approaching the same place the giant form of Douglas,
who has come to deliver himself up to the King, in order to save
Malcolm Graeme and Sir Roderick from the impending danger. Before
entering the castle, Douglas is seized with the whim to engage in
the holiday sports which are going forward outside; he wins prize
after prize, and receives his reward from the hand of the prince,
who, however does not condescend to recognize his former favorite.
Roused at last by an insult from one of the royal grooms, Douglas
proclaims himself, and is ordered into custody by the King. At this
instant a messenger arrives with tidings of an approaching battle
between the clan of Roderick and the King's lieutenant, the Earl of
Mar; and is ordered back to prevent the conflict, by announcing
that both Sir Roderick and Lord Douglas are in the hands of their
"The last canto opens in the guard room of the royal castle at
Stirling, at dawn. While the mercenaries are quarreling and singing
at the close of a night of debauch, the sentinels introduce Ellen
and the minstrel Allan-bane--who are come in search of Douglas.
Ellen awes the ruffian soldiery by her grace and liberality, and is
at length conducted to a more seemly waiting place, until she may
obtain audience with the King. While Allan-bane, in the cell of Sir
Roderick, sings to the dying chieftain of the glorious battle which
has just been waged by his clansmen against the forces of the Earl
of Mar, Ellen, in another part of the palace, hears the voice of
Malcolm Graeme lamenting his captivity from an adjoining turret.
Before she recovers from her agitation she is startled by the
appearance of Fitz-James, who comes to inform her that the court is
assembled, and the King at leisure to receive her suit. He conducts
her to the hall of presence, round which Ellen casts a timid and
eager glance for the monarch. But all the glittering figures are
uncovered, and James Fitz-James alone wears his cap and plume. The
Knight of Snowdoun is the King of Scotland! Struck with awe and
terror, Ellen falls speechless at his feet, pointing to the ring
which he has put upon her finger. The prince raises her with eager
kindness, declares that her father is forgiven, and bids her ask
for a boon for some other person. The name of Graeme trembles on
her lips, but she cannot trust herself to utter it. The King, in
playful vengeance, condemns Malcolm Graeme to fetters, takes a
chain of gold from his own neck, and throwing it over that of the
young chief, puts the clasp in the hand of Ellen."
From this outline, it will be evident that Scott had gained greatly in
narrative power since the production of _The Lay of the Last Minstrel_.
Not only are the elements of the "fable" (to use the word in its
old-fashioned sense) harmonious and probable, but the various incidents
grow out of each other in a natural and necessary way. The _Lay_ was at
best a skillful bit of carpentering whereof the several parts were
nicely juxtaposed; _The Lady of the Lake_ is an organism, and its
several members partake of a common life. A few weaknesses may, it is
true, be pointed out in it. The warning of Fitz-James by the mad woman's
song makes too large a draft upon our romantic credulity. Her appearance
is at once so accidental and so opportune that it resembles those
supernatural interventions employed by ancient tragedy to cut the knot
of a difficult situation, which have given rise to the phrase _deus ex
machina_. The improbability of the episode is further increased by the
fact that she puts her warning in the form of a song. Scott's love of
romantic episode manifestly led him astray here. Further, the story as a
whole shares with all stories which turn upon the revelation of a
concealed identity, the disadvantage of being able to affect the reader
powerfully but once, since on a second reading the element of suspense
and surprise is lacking. In so far as _The Lady of the Lake_ is a mere
story, or as it has been called, a "versified novelette," this is not a
weakness; but in so far as it is a poem, with the claim which poetry
legitimately makes to be read and reread for its intrinsic beauty, it
constitutes a real defect.
Not only does this poem, with the slight exceptions just mentioned, show
a gain over the earlier poems in narrative power, but it also marks an
advance in character delineation. The characters of the _Lay_ are, with
one or two exceptions, mere lay-figures; Lord Cranstoun and Margaret are
the most conventional of lovers; William of Deloraine is little more
than an animated suit of armor, and the Lady of Branksome, except at one
point, when from her walls she defies the English invaders, is nearly or
quite featureless. With the characters of _The Lady of the Lake_ the
case is very different. The three rivals for Ellen's hand are real men,
with individualities which enhance and deepen the picturesqueness of
each other by contrast. The easy grace and courtly chivalry, of the
disguised King, the quick kindling of his fancy at sight of the
mysterious maid of Loch Katrine, his quick generosity in relinquishing
his suit when he finds that she loves another, make him one of the most
life-like figures of romance. Roderick Dhu, nursing darkly his clannish
hatreds, his hopeless love, and his bitter jealousy, with a delicate
chivalry sending its bright thread through the tissue of his savage
nature, is drawn with an equally convincing hand. Against his gloomy
figure the boyish magnanimity of Malcolm Graeme, Ellen's brave
faithfulness, made human by a surface play of coquetry, and the quiet
nobility of the exiled Douglas, stand out in varied relief. Judged in
connection with the more conventional character types of _Marmion_, and
with the draped automatons of the _Lay_, the characters of _The Lady of
the Lake_ show the gradual growth in Scott of that dramatic imagination
which was later to fill the vast scene of his prose romances with
But the most significant advance which this poem shows over earlier work
is in the greater genuineness of the poetic effect. In the description,
for example, of the approach of Roderick Dhu's boats to the island,
there is a singular depth of race feeling. There is borne in upon us, as
we read, the realization of a wild and peculiar civilization; we get a
breath of poetry keen and strange, like the shrilling of the bag-pipes
across the water. Again, in the speeding of the fiery cross there is a
primitive depth of poetry which carries with it a sense of "old,
unhappy, far-off things"; it appeals to latent memories in us, which
have been handed down from an ancestral past. There is nothing in either
_The Lay of the Last Minstrel_ or _Marmion_ to compare for natural
dramatic force with the situation in _The Lady of the Lake_ when
Roderick Dhu whistles for his clansmen to appear, and the astonished
Fitz-James sees the lonely mountain side suddenly bristle with tartans
and spears; and the fight which follows at the ford is a real fight, in
a sense not at all to be applied to the tournaments and other
conventional encounters of the earlier poems. Even where Scott still
clung to supernatural devices to help along his story, he handles them
with much greater subtlety than he had done in his earlier efforts. The
dropping of Douglas's sword from its scabbard when his disguised enemy
enters the room, arouses the imagination without burdening it. It has
the same imaginative advantage over such an episode as that in the
_Lay_, where the ghost of the wizard comes to bear off the goblin page,
as suggestion always has over explicit statement. This gain in subtlety
of treatment will be made still more apparent by comparing with any
supernatural episode of the _Lay_, the account in _The Lady of the Lake_
of the unearthly parentage of Brian the Hermit.
The gain in style is less perceptible. Scott was never a great stylist;
he struck out at the very first a nervous, hurrying meter, and a strong
though rather commonplace diction, upon which he never substantially
improved. Abundant action, rapid transitions, stirring descriptions,
common sentiments and ordinary language heightened by a dash of pomp and
novelty, above all a pervading animation, spirit, intrepidity--these are
the constant elements of Scott's success, present here in their
accustomed measure. In the broader sense of style, however, where the
word is understood to include all the processes leading to a given
poetical effect, _The Lady of the Lake_ has some advantage, even over
_Marmion_. It contains nothing, to be sure, so fine or so typical of
Scott's peculiar power, as the account of the Battle of Flodden in
_Marmion_; the minstrel's recital of the battle of Beal' an Duine does
not abide the comparison. The quieter parts of _The Lady of the Lake_,
moreover, are sometimes disfigured by a sentimentality and "prettiness"
happily unfrequent with Scott. But the description of the approach of
Roderick Dhu's war-boats, already mentioned, the superb landscape
delineation in the fifth canto, and the beautiful twilight ending of
canto third, can well stand as prime types of Scott's stylistic power.
THE LADY OF THE LAKE
Harp of the North! that moldering long hast hung
On the witch-elm that shades Saint Fillan's spring,
And down the fitful breeze thy numbers flung,
Till envious ivy did around thee cling,
Muffling with verdant ringlet every string-- 5
O Minstrel Harp, still must thine accents sleep?
Mid rustling leaves and fountains murmuring,
Still must thy sweeter sounds their silence keep,
Nor bid a warrior smile, nor teach a maid to weep?
Not thus, in ancient days of Caledon, 10
Was thy voice mute amid the festal crowd,
When lay of hopeless love, or glory won,
Aroused the fearful, or subdued the proud.
At each according pause, was heard aloud
Thine ardent symphony sublime and high! 15
Fair dames and crested chiefs attention bowed;
For still the burden of thy minstrelsy
Was Knighthood's dauntless deed, and Beauty's matchless eye.
O wake once more! how rude soe'er the hand
That ventures o'er thy magic maze to stray; 20
O wake once more! though scarce my skill command
Some feeble echoing of thine earlier lay;
Though harsh and faint, and soon to die away,
And all unworthy of thy nobler strain,
Yet if one heart throb higher at its sway, 25
The wizard note has not been touched in vain.
Then silent be no more! Enchantress, wake again!
The stag at eve had drunk his fill,
Where danced the moon on Monan's rill,
And deep his midnight lair had made 30
In lone Glenartney's hazel shade;
But, when the sun his beacon red
Had kindled on Benvoirlich's head,
The deep-mouthed bloodhound's heavy bay
Resounded up the rocky way, 35
And faint, from farther distance borne,
Were heard the clanging hoof and horn.
As Chief, who hears his warder call,
"To arms! the foemen storm the wall,"
The antlered monarch of the waste 40
Sprung from his heathery couch in haste.
But ere his fleet career he took,
The dew-drops from his flanks he shook;
Like crested leader proud and high,
Tossed his beamed frontlet to the sky; 45
A moment gazed adown the dale,
A moment snuffed the tainted gale,
A moment listened to the cry,
That thickened as the chase drew nigh;
Then, as the headmost foes appeared, 50
With one brave bound the copse he cleared,
And, stretching forward free and far,
Sought the wild heaths of Uam-Var.
Yelled on the view the opening pack;
Rock, glen, and cavern, paid them back; 55
To many a mingled sound at once
The awakened mountain gave response.
A hundred dogs bayed deep and strong,
Clattered a hundred steeds along,
Their peal the merry horns rung out, 60
A hundred voices joined the shout;
With hark and whoop and wild halloo,
No rest Benvoirlich's echoes knew.
Far from the tumult fled the roe;
Close in her covert cowered the doe; 65
The falcon, from her cairn on high,
Cast on the rout a wondering eye,
Till far beyond her piercing ken
The hurricane had swept the glen.
Faint, and more faint, its failing din 70
Returned from cavern, cliff, and linn,
And silence settled, wide and still,
On the lone wood and mighty hill.
Less loud the sounds of silvan war
Disturbed the heights of Uam-Var, 75
And roused the cavern, where, 'tis told,
A giant made his den of old;
For ere that steep ascent was won,
High in his pathway hung the sun,
And many a gallant, stayed perforce, 80
Was fain to breathe his faltering horse,
And of the trackers of the deer,
Scarce half the lessening pack was near;
So shrewdly on the mountain side,
Had the bold burst their mettle tried. 85
The noble stag was pausing now
Upon the mountain's southern brow,
Where broad extended, far beneath,
The varied realms of fair Menteith.
With anxious eye he wandered o'er 90
Mountain and meadow, moss and moor,
And pondered refuge from his toil,
By far Lochard or Aberfoyle.
But nearer was the copsewood grey,
That waved and wept on Loch-Achray, 95
And mingled with the pine-trees blue
On the bold cliffs of Benvenue.
Fresh vigor with the hope returned,
With flying foot the heath he spurned,
Held westward with unwearied race, 100
And left behind the panting chase.
'Twere long to tell what steeds gave o'er,
As swept the hunt through Cambusmore;
What reins were tightened in despair,
When rose Benledi's ridge in air; 105
Who flagged upon Bochastle's heath,
Who shunned to stem the flooded Teith--
For twice that day, from shore to shore,
The gallant stag swam stoutly o'er.
Few were the stragglers, following far, 110
That reached the lake of Vennachar;
And when the Brigg of Turk was won,
The headmost horseman rode alone.
Alone, but with unbated zeal,
That horseman plied the scourge and steel; 115
For jaded now, and spent with toil,
Embossed with foam, and dark with soil,
While every gasp with sobs he drew,
The laboring stag strained full in view.
Two dogs of black Saint Hubert's breed, 120
Unmatched for courage, breath, and speed,
Fast on his flying traces came,
And all but won that desperate game;
For, scarce a spear's length from his haunch,
Vindictive, toiled the bloodhounds stanch; 125
Nor nearer might the dogs attain,
Nor farther might the quarry strain.
Thus up the margin of the lake,
Between the precipice and brake,
O'er stock and rock their race they take. 130
The Hunter marked that mountain high,
The lone lake's western boundary,
And deemed the stag must turn to bay,
Where that huge rampart barred the way;
Already glorying in the prize, 135
Measured his antlers with his eyes;
For the death-wound and the death-halloo,
Mustered his breath, his whinyard drew--
But thundering as he came prepared,
With ready arm and weapon bared, 140
The wily quarry shunned the shock,
And turned him from the opposing rock;
Then, dashing down a darksome glen,
Soon lost to hound and Hunter's ken,
In the deep Trossachs' wildest nook 145
His solitary refuge took.
There, while close couched, the thicket shed
Cold dews and wild-flowers on his head,
He heard the baffled dogs in vain
Rave through the hollow pass amain, 150
Chiding the rocks that yelled again.
Close on the hounds the Hunter came,
To cheer them on the vanished game;
But, stumbling in the rugged dell,
The gallant horse exhausted fell. 155
The impatient rider strove in vain
To rouse him with the spur and rein,
For the good steed, his labors o'er,
Stretched his stiff limbs, to rise no more;
Then, touched with pity and remorse, 160
He sorrowed o'er the expiring horse.
"I little thought, when first thy rein
I slacked upon the banks of Seine,
That Highland eagle e'er should feed
On thy fleet limbs, my matchless steed! 165
Woe worth the chase, woe worth the day,
That costs thy life, my gallant gray!"
Then through the dell his horn resounds,
From vain pursuit to call the hounds.
Back limped, with slow and crippled pace, 170
The sulky leaders of the chase;
Close to their master's side they pressed,
With drooping tail and humbled crest;
But still the dingle's hollow throat
Prolonged the swelling bugle-note. 175
The owlets started from their dream,
The eagles answered with their scream,
Round and around the sounds were cast,
Till echo seemed an answering blast;
And on the Hunter hied his way, 180
To join some comrades of the day;
Yet often paused, so strange the road,
So wondrous were the scenes it showed.
The western waves of ebbing day
Rolled o'er the glen their level way; 185
Each purple peak, each flinty spire,
Was bathed in floods of living fire.
But not a setting beam could glow
Within the dark ravines below,
Where twined the path in shadow hid, 190
Round many a rocky pyramid,
Shooting abruptly from the dell
Its thunder-splintered pinnacle;
Round many an insulated mass,
The native bulwarks of the pass, 195
Huge as the tower which builders vain
Presumptuous piled on Shinar's plain.
The rocky summits, split and rent,
Formed turret, dome, or battlement,
Or seemed fantastically set 200
With cupola or minaret,
Wild crests as pagod ever decked,
Or mosque of Eastern architect.
Nor were these earth-born castles bare,
Nor lacked they many a banner fair; 205
For, from their shivered brows displayed,
Far o'er the unfathomable glade,
All twinkling with the dewdrops sheen,
The brier-rose fell in streamers green,
And creeping shrubs, of thousand dyes, 210
Waved in the west-wind's summer sighs.
Boon nature scattered, free and wild,
Each plant or flower, the mountain's child.
Here eglantine embalmed the air,
Hawthorn and hazel mingled there; 215
The primrose pale and violet flower,
Found in each cliff a narrow bower;
Fox-glove and night-shade, side by side,
Emblems of punishment and pride,
Grouped their dark hues with every stain 220
The weather-beaten crags retain.
With boughs that quaked at every breath,
Grey birch and aspen wept beneath;
Aloft, the ash and warrior oak
Cast anchor in the rifted rock; 225
And, higher yet, the pine-tree hung
His shattered trunk, and frequent flung,
Where seemed the cliffs to meet on high,
His bows athwart the narrowed sky.
Highest of all, where white peaks glanced, 230
Where glist'ning streamers waved and danced,
The wanderer's eye could barely view
The summer heaven's delicious blue;
So wondrous wild, the whole might seem
The scenery of a fairy dream. 235
Onward, amid the copse 'gan peep
A narrow inlet, still and deep,
Affording scarce such breadth of brim
As served the wild duck's brood to swim.
Lost for a space, through thickets veering, 240
But broader when again appearing,
Tall rocks and tufted knolls their face
Could on the dark-blue mirror trace;
And farther as the Hunter strayed,
Still broader sweep its channels made. 245
The shaggy mounds no longer stood,
Emerging from entangled wood,
But, wave-encircled, seemed to float,
Like castle girdled with its moat;
Yet broader floods extending still 250
Divide them from their parent hill,
Till each, retiring, claims to be
An islet in an inland sea.
And now, to issue from the glen,
No pathway meets the wanderer's ken, 255
Unless he climb, with footing nice,
A far projecting precipice.
The broom's tough roots his ladder made,
The hazel saplings lent their aid;
And thus an airy point he won, 260
Where, gleaming with the setting sun,
One burnished sheet of living gold,
Loch Katrine lay beneath him rolled,
In all her length far winding lay,
With promontory, creek, and bay, 265
And island that, empurpled bright,
Floated amid the livelier light,
And mountains, that like giants stand,
To sentinel enchanted land.
High on the south, huge Benvenue 270
Down on the lake in masses threw
Crags, knolls, and mounds, confusedly hurled,
The fragments of an earlier world;
A wildering forest feathered o'er
His ruined sides and summit hoar, 275
While on the north, through middle air,
Ben-an heaved high his forehead bare.
From the steep promontory gazed
The stranger, raptured and amazed,
And, "What a scene were here," he cried, 280
"For princely pomp, or churchman's pride!
On this bold brow, a lordly tower;
In that soft vale, a lady's bower;
On yonder meadow, far away,
The turrets of a cloister gray; 285
How blithely might the bugle-horn
Chide, on the lake, the lingering morn!
How sweet, at eve, the lover's lute
Chime, when the groves were still and mute!
And when the midnight moon should lave 290
Her forehead in the silver wave,
How solemn on the ear would come
The holy matin's distant hum,
While the deep peal's commanding tone
Should wake, in yonder islet lone, 295
A sainted hermit from his cell,
To drop a bead with every knell--
And bugle, lute, and bell, and all,
Should each bewildered stranger call
To friendly feast, and lighted hall. 300
"Blithe were it then to wander here!
But now--beshrew yon nimble deer--
Like that same hermit's, thin and spare,
The copse must give my evening fare;
Some mossy bank my couch must be, 305
Some rustling oak my canopy.
Yet pass we that; the war and chase
Give little choice of resting-place--
A summer night, in greenwood spent,
Were but tomorrow's merriment: 310
But hosts may in these wilds abound,
Such as are better missed than found;
To meet with Highland plunderers here,
Were worse than loss of steed or deer.
I am alone; my bugle-strain 315
May call some straggler of the train;
Or, fall the worst that may betide,
Ere now this falchion has been tried."
But scarce again his horn he wound,
When lo! forth starting at the sound, 320
From underneath an aged oak,
That slanted from the islet rock,
A damsel guider of its way,
A little skiff shot to the bay,
That round the promontory steep 325
Led its deep line in graceful sweep,
Eddying, in almost viewless wave,
The weeping willow-twig to lave,
And kiss, with whispering sound and slow,
The beach of pebbles bright as snow. 330
The boat had touched the silver strand,
Just as the Hunter left his stand,
And stood concealed amid the brake,
To view this Lady of the Lake.
The maiden paused, as if again 335
She thought to catch the distant strain.
With head upraised, and look intent,
And eye and ear attentive bent,
And locks flung back, and lips apart,
Like monument of Grecian art, 340
In listening mood, she seemed to stand,
The guardian Naiad of the strand.
And ne'er did Grecian chisel trace
A Nymph, a Naiad, or a Grace
Of finer form or lovelier face! 345
What though the sun, with ardent frown,
Had slightly tinged her cheek with brown--
The sportive toil, which, short and light,
Had dyed her glowing hue so bright,
Served too in hastier swell to show 350
Short glimpses of a breast of snow.
What though no rule of courtly grace
To measured mood had trained her pace,--
A foot more light, a step more true,
Ne'er from the heath-flower dashed the dew; 355
E'en the slight harebell raised its head,
Elastic from her airy tread.
What though upon her speech there hung
The accents of the mountain tongue--
Those silver sounds, so soft, so dear, 360
The listener held his breath to hear!
A chieftain's daughter seemed the maid;
Her satin snood, her silken plaid,
Her golden brooch such birth betrayed.
And seldom was a snood amid 365
Such wild luxuriant ringlets hid,
Whose glossy black to shame might bring
The plumage of the raven's wing;
And seldom o'er a breast so fair,
Mantled a plaid with modest care, 370
And never brooch the folds combined
Above a heart more good and kind.
Her kindness and her worth to spy,
You need but gaze on Ellen's eye;
Not Katrine, in her mirror blue, 375
Gives back the shaggy banks more true,
Than every free-born glance confessed
The guileless movements of her breast;
Whether joy danced in her dark eye,
Or woe or pity claimed a sigh, 380
Or filial love was glowing there,
Or meek devotion poured a prayer,
Or tale of injury called forth
The indignant spirit of the North.
One only passion unrevealed, 385
With maiden pride the maid concealed,
Yet not less purely felt the flame--
Oh! need I tell that passion's name!
Impatient of the silent horn,
Now on the gale her voice was borne: 390
"Father!" she cried; the rocks around
Loved to prolong the gentle sound.
A while she paused, no answer came--
"Malcolm, was thine the blast?" the name
Less resolutely uttered fell, 395
The echoes could not catch the swell.
"A stranger I," the Huntsman said,
Advancing from the hazel shade.
The maid, alarmed, with hasty oar,
Pushed her light shallop from the shore, 400
And when a space was gained between,
Closer she drew her bosom's screen--
So forth the startled swan would swing,
So turn to prune his ruffled wing.
Then safe, though fluttered and amazed, 405
She paused, and on the stranger gazed.
Not his the form, nor his the eye,
That youthful maidens wont to fly.
On his bold visage middle age
Had slightly pressed its signet sage, 410
Yet had not quenched the open truth
And fiery vehemence of youth;
Forward and frolic glee was there,
The will to do, the soul to dare,
The sparkling glance, soon blown to fire, 415
Of hasty love, or headlong ire.
His limbs were cast in manly mold,
For hardy sports or contest bold;
And though in peaceful garb arrayed,
And weaponless, except his blade, 420
His stately mien as well implied
A high-born heart, a martial pride,
As if a Baron's crest he wore,
And sheathed in armor trod the shore.
Slighting the petty need he showed, 425
He told of his benighted road;
His ready speech flowed fair and free,
In phrase of gentlest courtesy;
Yet seemed that tone, and gesture bland,
Less used to sue than to command. 430
A while the maid the stranger eyed,
And, reassured, at length replied,
That Highland halls were open still
To wildered wanderers of the hill.
"Nor think you unexpected come 435
To yon lone isle, our desert home;
Before the heath had lost the dew,
This morn, a couch was pulled for you;
On yonder mountain's purple head
Have ptarmigan and heath-cock bled, 440
And our broad nets have swept the mere,
To furnish forth your evening cheer."
"Now, by the rood, my lovely maid,
Your courtesy has erred," he said;
"No right have I to claim, misplaced, 445
The welcome of expected guest.
A wanderer here, by fortune tost,
My way, my friends, my courser lost,
I ne'er before, believe me, fair,
Have ever drawn your mountain air, 450
Till on this lake's romantic strand,
I found a fay in fairy land!"
"I well believe," the maid replied,
As her light skiff approached the side,
"I well believe, that ne'er before 455
Your foot has trod Loch Katrine's shore;
But yet, as far as yesternight,
Old Allan-bane foretold your plight,
A gray-haired sire, whose eye intent
Was on the visioned future bent. 460
He saw your steed, a dappled gray,
Lie dead beneath the birchen way;
Painted exact your form and mien,
Your hunting suit of Lincoln green,
That tasselled horn so gaily gilt, 465
That falchion's crooked blade and hilt,
That cap with heron plumage trim,
And yon two hounds so dark and grim.
He bade that all should ready be,
To grace a guest of fair degree; 470
But light I held his prophecy,
And deemed it was my father's horn,
Whose echoes o'er the lake were borne."
The stranger smiled: "Since to your home
A destined errant-knight I come, 475
Announced by prophet sooth and old,
Doomed, doubtless, for achievement bold,
I'll lightly front each high emprise,
For one kind glance of those bright eyes.
Permit me, first, the task to guide 480
Your fairy frigate o'er the tide."
The maid with smile suppressed and sly,
The toil unwonted saw him try;
For seldom sure, if e'er before,
His noble hand had grasped an oar. 485
Yet with main strength his strokes he drew,
And o'er the lake the shallop flew;
With heads erect, and whimpering cry,
The hounds behind their passage ply.
Nor frequent does the bright oar break 490
The dark'ning mirror of the lake,
Until the rocky isle they reach,
And moor their shallop on the beach.
The stranger viewed the shore around,
'Twas all so close with copsewood bound, 495
Nor track nor pathway might declare
That human foot frequented there,
Until the mountain-maiden showed
A clambering, unsuspected road,
That winded through the tangled screen, 500
And opened on a narrow green,
Where weeping birch and willow round
With their long fibres swept the ground.
Here, for retreat in dangerous hour,
Some chief had framed a rustic bower. 505
It was a lodge of ample size,
But strange of structure and device;
Of such materials as around
The workman's hand had readiest found.
Lopped of their boughs, their hoar trunks bared, 510
And by the hatchet rudely squared,
To give the walls their destined height,
The sturdy oak and ash unite;
While moss and clay and leaves combined
To fence each crevice from the wind. 515
The lighter pine-trees overhead,
Their slender length for rafters spread,
And withered heath and rushes dry
Supplied a russet canopy.
Due westward, fronting to the green, 520
A rural portico was seen,
Aloft on native pillars borne,
Of mountain fir with bark unshorn,
Where Ellen's hand had taught to twine
The ivy and Idaean vine, 525
The clematis, the favored flower
Which boasts the name of virgin-bower,
And every hardy plant could bear
Loch Katrine's keen and searching air.
An instant in this porch she stayed 530
And gaily to the stranger said,
"On heaven and on thy lady call,
And enter the enchanted hall!"
"My hope, my heaven, my trust must be,
My gentle guide, in following thee." 535
He crossed the threshold--and a clang
Of angry steel that instant rang.
To his bold brow his spirit rushed,
But soon for vain alarm he blushed,
When on the floor he saw displayed, 540
Cause of the din, a naked blade
Dropped from the sheath, that careless flung
Upon a stag's huge antlers swung;
For all around, the walls to grace,
Hung trophies of the fight or chase: 545
A target there, a bugle here,
A battle-ax, a hunting spear,
And broadswords, bows, and arrows store,
With the tusked trophies of the boar.
Here grins the wolf as when he died, 550
And there the wild-cat's brindled hide
The frontlet of the elk adorns,
Or mantles o'er the bison's horns;
Pennons and flags defaced and stained,
That blackening streaks of blood retained, 555
And deer-skins, dappled, dun, and white,
With otter's fur and seal's unite,
In rude and uncouth tapestry all,
To garnish forth the silvan hall.
The wondering stranger round him gazed, 560
And next the fallen weapon raised--
Few were the arms whose sinewy strength,
Sufficed to stretch it forth at length.
And as the brand he poised and swayed,
"I never knew but one," he said, 565
"Whose stalwart arm might brook to wield
A blade like this in battle-field."
She sighed, then smiled and took the word:
"You see the guardian champion's sword;
As light it trembles in his hand, 570
As in my grasp a hazel wand;
My sire's tall form might grace the part
Of Ferragus, or Ascabart;
But in the absent giant's hold
Are women now, and menials old." 575
The mistress of the mansion came,
Mature of age, a graceful dame;
Whose easy step and stately port
Had well become a princely court,
To whom, though more than kindred knew, 580
Young Ellen gave a mother's due.
Meet welcome to her guest she made,
And every courteous rite was paid,
That hospitality could claim,
Though all unasked his birth and name. 585
Such then the reverence to a guest,
That fellest foe might join the feast,
And from his deadliest foeman's door
Unquestioned turn, the banquet o'er.
At length his rank the stranger names, 590
"The Knight of Snowdoun, James Fitz-James;
Lord of a barren heritage,
Which his brave sires, from age to age,
By their good swords had held with toil;
His sire had fallen in such turmoil, 595
And he, God wot, was forced to stand
Oft for his right with blade in hand.
This morning, with Lord Moray's train
He chased a stalwart stag in vain,
Outstripped his comrades, missed the deer, 600
Lost his good steed, and wandered here."
Fain would the Knight in turn require
The name and state of Ellen's sire.
Well showed the elder lady's mien,
That courts and cities she had seen; 605
Ellen, though more her looks displayed
The simple grace of silvan maid,
In speech and gesture, form and face,
Showed she was come of gentle race.
'Twere strange in ruder rank to find 610
Such looks, such manners, and such mind.
Each hint the Knight of Snowdoun gave,
Dame Margaret heard with silence grave;
Or Ellen, innocently gay,
Turned all inquiry light away: 615
"Weird women we--by dale and down
We dwell, afar from tower and town.
We stem the flood, we ride the blast,
On wandering knights our spells we cast;
While viewless minstrels touch the string, 620
'Tis thus our charméd rimes we sing."
She sung, and still a harp unseen
Filled up the symphony between.
"Soldier, rest! thy warfare o'er,
Sleep the sleep that knows no breaking; 625
Dream of battled fields no more,
Days of danger, nights of waking.
In our isle's enchanted hall,
Hands unseen thy couch are strewing,
Fairy strains of music fall, 630
Every sense in slumber dewing.
Soldier, rest! thy warfare o'er,
Dream of fighting fields no more;
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking,
Morn of toil, nor night of waking. 635
"No rude sound shall reach thine ear,
Armor's clang, or war-steed champing,
Trump nor pibroch summon here
Mustering clan, or squadron tramping.
Yet the lark's shrill fife may come 640
At the day-break from the fallow,
And the bittern sound his drum,
Booming from the sedgy shallow.
Ruder sounds shall none be near,
Guards nor warders challenge here, 645
Here's no war-steed's neigh and champing,
Shouting clans or squadrons stamping."
She paused--then, blushing, led the lay
To grace the stranger of the day.
Her mellow notes awhile prolong 650
The cadence of the flowing song,
Till to her lips in measured frame
The minstrel verse spontaneous came.
"Huntsman, rest! thy chase is done,
While our slumbrous spells assail ye, 655
Dream not, with the rising sun,
Bugles here shall sound reveillé.
Sleep! the deer is in his den;
Sleep! thy hounds are by thee lying;
Sleep! nor dream in yonder glen, 660
How thy gallant steed lay dying.
Huntsman, rest! thy chase is done,
Think not of the rising sun,
For at dawning to assail ye,
Here no bugles sound reveillé." 665
The hall was cleared--the stranger's bed
Was there of mountain heather spread,
Where oft a hundred guests had lain,
And dreamed their forest sports again.
But vainly did the heath-flower shed 670
Its moorland fragrance round his head;
Not Ellen's spell had lulled to rest
The fever of his troubled breast.
In broken dreams the image rose
Of varied perils, pains, and woes: 675
His steed now flounders in the brake,
Now sinks his barge upon the lake;
Now leader of a broken host,
His standard falls, his honor's lost.
Then--from my couch may heavenly might 680
Chase that worst phantom of the night!
Again returned the scenes of youth,
Of confident undoubting truth;
Again his soul he interchanged
With friends whose hearts were long estranged. 685
They come, in dim procession led,
The cold, the faithless, and the dead;
As warm each hand, each brow as gay,
As if they parted yesterday.
And doubt distracts him at the view-- 690
O were his senses false or true?
Dreamed he of death, or broken vow,
Or is it all a vision now?
At length, with Ellen in a grove
He seemed to walk, and speak of love; 695
She listened with a blush and sigh,
His suit was warm, his hopes were high.
He sought her yielded hand to clasp,
And a cold gauntlet met his grasp;
The phantom's sex was changed and gone, 700
Upon its head a helmet shone;
Slowly enlarged to giant size,
With darkened cheek and threatening eyes,
The grisly visage, stern and hoar,
To Ellen still a likeness bore. 705
He woke, and, panting with affright,
Recalled the vision of the night.
The hearth's decaying brands were red.
And deep and dusky luster shed,
Half showing, half concealing, all 710
The uncouth trophies of the hall.
Mid those the stranger fixed his eye,
Where that huge falchion hung on high,
And thoughts on thoughts, a countless throng,
Rushed, chasing countless thoughts along. 715
Until, the giddy whirl to cure,
He rose, and sought the moonshine pure.
The wild-rose, eglantine, and broom,
Wasted around their rich perfume:
The birch-trees swept in fragrant balm, 720
The aspens slept beneath the calm;
The silver light, with quivering glance,
Played on the water's still expanse--
Wild were the heart whose passion's sway
Could rage beneath the sober ray! 725
He felt its calm, that warrior guest,
While thus he communed with his breast:
"Why is it, at each turn I trace
Some memory of that exiled race?
Can I not mountain-maiden spy, 730
But she must bear the Douglas eye?
Can I not view a Highland brand,
But it must match the Douglas hand?
Can I not frame a fevered dream,
But still the Douglas is the theme? 735
I'll dream no more--by manly mind
Not even in sleep is will resigned.
My midnight orisons said o'er,
I'll turn to rest, and dream no more."
His midnight orisons he told, 740
A prayer with every bead of gold,
Consigned to heaven his cares and woes,
And sunk in undisturbed repose,
Until the heath-cock shrilly crew,
And morning dawned on Benvenue. 745
At morn the blackcock trims his jetty wing,
'Tis morning prompts the linnet's blithest lay,
All Nature's children feel the matin spring
Of life reviving, with reviving day;
And while yon little bark glides down the bay, 5
Wafting the stranger on his way again,
Morn's genial influence roused a minstrel gray,
And sweetly o'er the lake was heard thy strain,
Mixed with the sounding harp, O white-haired Allan-bane!
"Not faster yonder rowers' might 10
Flings from their oars the spray,
Not faster yonder rippling bright,
That tracks the shallop's course in light,
Melts in the lake away,
Than men from memory erase 15
The benefits of former days;
Then, stranger, go! good speed the while,
Nor think again of the lonely isle.
"High place to thee in royal court,
High place in battle line, 20
Good hawk and hound for silvan sport,
Where beauty sees the brave resort;
The honored meed be thine!
True be thy sword, thy friend sincere,
Thy lady constant, kind and dear, 25
And lost in love, and friendship's smile
Be memory of the lonely isle.
"But if beneath yon southern sky
A plaided stranger roam,
Whose drooping crest and stifled sigh, 30
And sunken cheek and heavy eye,
Pine for his Highland home;
Then, warrior, then be thine to show
The care that soothes a wanderer's woe;
Remember then thy hap ere while, 35
A stranger in the lonely isle.
"Or if on life's uncertain main
Mishap shall mar thy sail;
If faithful, wise, and brave in vain,
Woe, want, and exile thou sustain 40
Beneath the fickle gale;
Waste not a sigh on fortune changed,
On thankless courts, or friends estranged,
But come where kindred worth shall smile,
To greet thee in the lonely isle." 45
As died the sounds upon the tide,
The shallop reached the mainland side,
And ere his onward way he took,
The stranger cast a lingering look,
Where easily his eye might reach 50
The Harper on the islet beach,
Reclined against a blighted tree,
As wasted, gray, and worn as he.
To minstrel meditation given,
His reverend brow was raised to heaven, 55
As from the rising sun to claim
A sparkle of inspiring flame.
His hand, reclined upon the wire,
Seemed watching the awakening fire;
So still he sat, as those who wait 60
Till judgment speak the doom of fate;
So still, as if no breeze might dare
To lift one lock of hoary hair;
So still, as life itself were fled,
In the last sound his harp had sped. 65
Upon a rock with lichens wild,
Beside him Ellen sat and smiled--
Smiled she to see the stately drake
Lead forth his fleet upon the lake,
While her vexed spaniel, from the beach 70
Bayed at the prize beyond his reach?
Yet tell me, then, the maid who knows,
Why deepened on her cheek the rose?
Forgive, forgive, Fidelity!
Perchance the maiden smiled to see 75
Yon parting lingerer wave adieu,
And stop and turn to wave anew;
And, lovely ladies, ere your ire
Condemn the heroine of my lyre,
Show me the fair would scorn to spy, 80
And prize such conquest of her eye!
While yet he loitered on the spot,
It seemed as Ellen marked him not;
But when he turned him to the glade,
One courteous parting sign she made; 85
And after, oft the knight would say,
That not when prize of festal day
Was dealt him by the brightest fair,
Who e'er wore jewel in her hair,
So highly did his bosom swell, 90
As at that simple mute farewell.
Now with a trusty mountain-guide,
And his dark stag-hounds by his side,
He parts--the maid, unconscious still,
Watched him wind slowly round the hill; 95
But when his stately form was hid,
The guardian in her bosom chid--
"Thy Malcolm! vain and selfish maid!"
'Twas thus upbraiding conscience said--
"Not so had Malcolm idly hung 100
On the smooth phrase of southern tongue;
Not so had Malcolm strained his eye
Another step than thine to spy.
Wake, Allan-bane," aloud she cried,
To the old Minstrel by her side-- 105
"Arouse thee from thy moody dream!
I'll give thy harp heroic theme,
And warm thee with a noble name;
Pour forth the glory of the Graeme!"
Scarce from her lip the word had rushed, 110
When deep the conscious maiden blushed;
For of his clan, in hall and bower,
Young Malcolm Graeme was held the flower.
The Minstrel waked his harp--three times
Arose the well-known martial chimes, 115
And thrice their high heroic pride
In melancholy murmurs died.
"Vainly thou bid'st, O noble maid,"
Clasping his withered hands, he said,
"Vainly thou bid'st me wake the strain, 120
Though all unwont to bid in vain.
Alas! than mine a mightier hand
Has tuned my harp, my strings has spanned!
I touch the chords of joy, but low
And mournful answer notes of woe; 125
And the proud march, which victors tread,
Sinks in the wailing for the dead.
O well for me, if mine alone
That dirge's deep prophetic tone!
If, as my tuneful fathers said, 130
This harp, which erst Saint Modan swayed,
Can thus its master's fate foretell,
Then welcome be the minstrel's knell!
"But ah! dear lady, thus it sighed
The eve thy sainted mother died; 135
And such the sounds which, while I strove
To wake a lay of war or love,
Came marring all the festal mirth,
Appalling me who gave them birth,
And, disobedient to my call, 140
Wailed loud through Bothwell's bannered hall,
Ere Douglases to ruin driven,
Were exiled from their native heaven.
Oh! if yet worse mishap and woe,
My master's house must undergo, 145
Or aught but weal to Ellen fair,
Brood in these accents of despair,
No future bard, sad Harp! shall fling
Triumph or rapture from thy string;
One short, one final strain shall flow, 150
Fraught with unutterable woe,
Then shivered shall thy fragments lie,
Thy master cast him down and die!"
Soothing she answered him--"Assuage,
Mine honored friend, the fears of age; 155
All melodies to thee are known,
That harp has rung, or pipe has blown,
In Lowland vale or Highland glen,
From Tweed to Spey--what marvel, then,
At times, unbidden notes should rise, 160
Confusedly bound in memory's ties,
Entangling, as they rush along,
The war-march with the funeral song?
Small ground is now for boding fear;
Obscure, but safe, we rest us here. 165
My sire, in native virtue great,
Resigning lordship, lands, and state,
Not then to fortune more resigned,
Than yonder oak might give the wind;
The graceful foliage storms may reave, 170
The noble stem they cannot grieve.
For me,"--she stooped, and, looking round,
Plucked a blue hare-bell from the ground--
"For me, whose memory scarce conveys
An image of more splendid days, 175
This little flower, that loves the lea,
May well my simple emblem be;
It drinks heaven's dew as blithe as rose
That in the king's own garden grows;
And when I place it in my hair, 180
Allan, a bard is bound to swear
He ne'er saw coronet so fair."
Then playfully the chaplet wild
She wreathed in her dark locks, and smiled.
Her smile, her speech, with winning sway, 185
Wiled the old harper's mood away.
With such a look as hermits throw,
When angels stoop to soothe their woe,
He gazed, till fond regret and pride
Thrilled to a tear, then thus replied: 190
"Loveliest and best! thou little know'st
The rank, the honors, thou hast lost!
O might I live to see thee grace,
In Scotland's court, thy birth-right place,
To see my favorite's step advance, 195
The lightest in the courtly dance,
The cause of every gallant's sigh,
And leading star of every eye,
And theme of every minstrel's art,
The Lady of the Bleeding Heart!" 200
"Fair dreams are these," the maiden cried
--Light was her accent, yet she sighed--
"Yet is this mossy rock to me
Worth splendid chair and canopy;
Nor would my footsteps spring more gay 205
In courtly dance than blithe strathspey,
Nor half so pleased mine ear incline
To royal minstrel's lay as thine.
And then for suitors proud and high,
To bend before my conquering eye-- 210
Thou, flattering bard! thyself wilt say,
That grim Sir Roderick owns its sway.
The Saxon scourge, Clan-Alpine's pride,
The terror of Loch-Lomond's side,
Would, at my suit, thou know'st, delay 215
A Lennox foray--for a day."
The ancient bard his glee repressed:
"Ill hast thou chosen theme for jest!
For who, through all this western wild,
Named Black Sir Roderick e'er, and smiled! 220
In Holy-Rood a knight he slew;
I saw, when back the dirk he drew,
Courtiers give place before the stride
Of the undaunted homicide;
And since, though outlawed, hath his hand 225
Full sternly kept his mountain land.
Who else dared give--ah! woe the day,
That I such hated truth should say--
The Douglas, like a stricken deer,
Disowned by every noble peer, 230
Even the rude refuge we have here?
Alas, this wild marauding Chief
Alone might hazard our relief,
And now thy maiden charms expand,
Looks for his guerdon in thy hand; 235
Full soon may dispensation sought,
To back his suit, from Rome he brought.
Then, though an exile on the hill,
Thy father, as the Douglas, still
Be held in reverence and fear; 240
And though to Roderick thou'rt so dear,
That thou might'st guide with silken thread,
Slave of thy will, this chieftain dread;
Yet, O loved maid, thy mirth refrain!
Thy hand is on a lion's mane." 245
"Minstrel," the maid replied, and high
Her father's soul glanced from her eye,
"My debts to Roderick's house I know:
All that a mother could bestow,
To Lady Margaret's care I owe, 250
Since first an orphan in the wild
She sorrowed o'er her sister's child;
To her brave chieftain son, from ire
Of Scotland's king who shrouds my sire. 255
A deeper, holier debt is owed;
And, could I pay it with my blood,
Allan! Sir Roderick should command
My blood, my life--but not my hand.
Rather will Ellen Douglas dwell
A votaress in Maronnan's cell; 260
Rather through realms beyond the sea,
Seeking the world's cold charity,
Where ne'er was spoke a Scottish word,
And ne'er the name of Douglas heard,
An outcast pilgrim will she rove, 265
Than wed the man she cannot love.
"Thou shakest, good friend, thy tresses gray--
That pleading look, what can it say
But what I own?--I grant him brave,
But wild as Bracklinn's thundering wave; 270
And generous--save vindictive mood,
Or jealous transport, chafe his blood;
I grant him true to friendly band,
As his claymore is to his hand;
But O! that very blade of steel 275
More mercy for a foe would feel:
I grant him liberal, to fling
Among his clan the wealth they bring,
When back by lake and glen they wind,
And in the Lowland leave behind, 280
Where once some pleasant hamlet stood,
A mass of ashes slaked with blood.
The hand that for my father fought,
I honor, as his daughter ought;
But can I clasp it reeking red, 285
From peasants slaughtered in their shed?
No! wildly while his virtues gleam,
They make his passions darker seem,
And flash along his spirit high,
Like lightning o'er the midnight sky. 290
While yet a child--and children know,
Instinctive taught, the friend and foe--
I shuddered at his brow of gloom,
His shadowy plaid, and sable plume;
A maiden grown, I ill could bear 295
His haughty mien and lordly air;
But, if thou join'st a suitor's claim,
In serious mood, to Roderick's name,
I thrill with anguish! or, if e'er
A Douglas knew the word, with fear. 300
To change such odious theme were best--
What think'st thou of our stranger guest?"
"What think I of him?--woe the while
That brought such wanderer to our isle!
Thy father's battle-brand, of yore 305
For Tine-man forged by fairy lore.
What time he leagued, no longer foes,
His Border spears with Hotspur's bows,
Did, self-unscabbarded, foreshow
The footstep of a secret foe. 310
If courtly spy hath harbored here,
What may we for the Douglas fear?
What for this island, deemed of old
Clan-Alpine's last and surest hold?
If neither spy nor foe, I pray 315
What yet may jealous Roderick say?
--Nay, wave not thy disdainful head,
Bethink thee of the discord dread,
That kindled when at Beltane game
Thou ledst the dance with Malcolm Graeme; 320
Still, though thy sire the peace renewed,
Smolders in Roderick's breast the feud;
Beware!--But hark, what sounds are these?
My dull ears catch no faltering breeze,
No weeping birch, nor aspens wake, 325
Nor breath is dimpling in the lake,
Still is the canna's hoary beard,
Yet, by my minstrel faith, I heard--
And hark again! some pipe of war
Sends the bold pibroch from afar." 330
Far up the lengthened lake were spied
Four darkening specks upon the tide,
That, slow enlarging on the view,
Four manned and masted barges grew,
And, bearing downwards from Glengyle, 335
Steered full upon the lonely isle;
The point of Brianchoil they passed,
And, to the windward as they cast,
Against the sun they gave to shine
The bold Sir Roderick's bannered Pine. 340
Nearer and nearer as they bear,
Spears, pikes, and axes flash in air.
Now might you see the tartans brave,
And plaids and plumage dance and wave;
Now see the bonnets sink and rise, 345
As his tough oar the rower plies;
See, flashing at each sturdy stroke,
The wave ascending into smoke;
See the proud pipers on the bow,
And mark the gaudy streamers flow 350
From their loud chanters down, and sweep
The furrowed bosom of the deep,
As, rushing through the lake amain,
They plied the ancient Highland strain.
Ever, as on they bore, more loud 355
And louder rung the pibroch proud.
At first the sound, by distance tame,
Mellowed along the waters came,
And, lingering long by cape and bay,
Wailed every harsher note away, 360
Then bursting bolder on the ear,
The clan's shrill Gathering they could hear;
Those thrilling sounds, that call the might
Of Old Clan-Alpine to the fight.
Thick beat the rapid notes, as when 365
The mustering hundreds shake the glen,
And hurrying at the signal dread,
The battered earth returns their tread.
Then prelude light, of livelier tone,
Expressed their merry marching on, 370
Ere peal of closing battle rose,
With mingled outcry, shrieks, and blows;
And mimic din of stroke and ward,
As broad sword upon target jarred;
And groaning pause, ere yet again, 375
Condensed, the battle yelled amain;
The rapid charge, the rallying shout,
Retreat borne headlong into rout,
And bursts of triumph, to declare
Clan-Alpine's conquest--all were there. 380
Nor ended thus the strain; but slow
Sunk in a moan prolonged and low,
And changed the conquering clarion swell,
For wild lament o'er those that fell.
The war-pipes ceased; but lake and hill 385
Were busy with their echoes still;
And, when they slept, a vocal strain
Bade their hoarse chorus wake again,
While loud a hundred clansmen raise
Their voices in their Chieftain's praise. 390
Each boatman, bending to his oar,
With measured sweep the burden bore,
In such wild cadence, as the breeze
Makes through December's leafless trees.
The chorus first could Allan know, 395
"Roderick Vich Alpine, ho! iro!"
And near, and nearer as they rowed,
Distinct the martial ditty flowed.
Hail to the Chief who in triumph advances!
Honored and blessed be the ever-green Pine! 400
Long may the tree, in his banner that glances,
Flourish, the shelter and grace of our line!
Heaven send it happy dew,
Earth lend it sap anew,
Gayly to borgeon, and broadly to grow, 405
While every Highland glen
Sends our shout back again,
"Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! ieroe!"
Ours is no sapling, chance-sown by the fountain,
Blooming at Beltane, in winter to fade; 410
When the whirlwind has stripped every leaf on the mountain,
The more shall Clan-Alpine exult in her shade.
Moored in the rifted rock,
Proof to the tempest's shock,
Firmer he roots him the ruder it blow; 415
Menteith and Breadalbane, then,
Echo his praise again,
"Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! ieroe!"
Proudly our pibroch has thrilled in Glen Fruin,
And Bannochar's groans to our slogan replied; 420
Glen Luss and Ross-dhu, they are smoking in ruin,
And the best of Loch-Lomond lie dead on her side.
Widow and Saxon maid
Long shall lament our raid,
Think of Clan-Alpine with fear and with woe; 425
Lennox and Leven-glen
Shake when they hear again
"Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! ieroe!"
Row, vassals, row, for the pride of the highlands!
Stretch to your oars, for the ever-green Pine! 430
O that the rose-bud that graces yon islands,
Were wreathed in a garland around him to twine!
O that some seedling gem,
Worthy such noble stem,
Honored and blest in their shadow might grow;
Loud should Clan-Alpine then
Ring from her deepmost glen,
"Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! ieroe!"
With all her joyful female band,
Had Lady Margaret sought the strand. 440
Loose on the breeze their tresses flew,
And high their snowy arms they threw,
As echoing back with shrill acclaim,
And chorus wild, the Chieftain's name;
While, prompt to please, with mother's art, 445
The darling passion of his heart,
The Dame called Ellen to the strand,
To greet her kinsman ere he land:
"Come, loiterer, come! a Douglas thou,
And shun to wreathe a victor's brow?" 450
Reluctantly and slow, the maid
The unwelcome summoning obeyed,
And, when a distant bugle rung,
In the mid-path aside she sprung:
"List Allan-bane! From mainland cast 455
I hear my father's signal blast.
Be ours," she cried, "the skiff to guide,
And waft him from the mountain side."
Then, like a sunbeam, swift and bright,
She darted to her shallop light, 460
And, eagerly while Roderick scanned,
For her dear form, his mother's band,
The islet far behind her lay,
And she had landed in the bay.
Some feelings are to mortals given, 465
With less of earth in them than heaven:
And if there be a human tear
From passion's dross refined and clear,
A tear so limpid and so meek,
It would not stain an angel's cheek, 470
'Tis that which pious fathers shed
Upon a duteous daughter's head!
And as the Douglas to his breast
His darling Ellen closely pressed,
Such holy drops her tresses steeped, 475
Though 'twas an hero's eye that weeped.
Nor while on Ellen's faltering tongue
Her filial welcomes crowded hung,
Marked she, that fear, affection's proof,
Still held a graceful youth aloof; 480
No! not till Douglas named his name,
Although the youth was Malcolm Graeme.
Allan, with wistful look the while,
Marked Roderick landing on the isle;
His master piteously he eyed. 485
Then gazed upon the Chieftain's pride,
Then dashed, with hasty hand, away
From his dimmed eye the gathering spray;
And Douglas, as his hand he laid
On Malcolm's shoulder, kindly said, 490
"Canst thou, young friend, no meaning spy
In my poor follower's glistening eye?
I'll tell thee: he recalls the day,
When in my praise he led the lay
O'er the arched gate of Bothwell proud, 495
While many a minstrel answered loud,
When Percy's Norman pennon, won
In bloody field, before me shone,
And twice ten knights, the least a name
As mighty as yon Chief may claim, 500
Gracing my pomp, behind me came.
Yet trust me, Malcolm, not so proud
Was I of all that marshaled crowd,
Though the waned crescent owned my might,
And in my train trooped lord and knight, 505
Though Blantyre hymned her holiest lays,
And Bothwell's bards flung back my praise,
As when this old man's silent tear,
And this poor maid's affection dear,
A welcome give more kind and true, 510
Than aught my better fortunes knew.
Forgive, my friend, a father's boast,
Oh! it out-beggars all I lost!"
Delightful praise!--like summer rose,
That brighter in the dew-drop glows, 515
The bashful maiden's cheek appeared,
For Douglas spoke and Malcolm heard.
The flush of shame-faced joy to hide,
The hounds, the hawk, her cares divide;
The loved caresses of the maid 520
The dogs with crouch and whimper paid;
And, at her whistle, on her hand
The falcon took his favorite stand,
Closed his dark wing, relaxed his eye,
Nor, though unhooded, sought to fly. 525
And, trust, while in such guise she stood,
Like fabled Goddess of the wood,
That if a father's partial thought
O'erweighed her worth, and beauty aught,
Well might the lover's judgment fail 530
To balance with a juster scale;
For with each secret glance he stole,
The fond enthusiast sent his soul.
Of stature tall, and slender frame,
But firmly knit, was Malcolm Graeme. 535
The belted plaid and tartan hose
Did ne'er more graceful limbs disclose;
His flaxen hair, of sunny hue,
Curled closely round his bonnet blue.
Trained to the chase, his eagle eye 540
The ptarmigan in snow could spy;
Each pass, by mountain, lake, and heath,
He knew, through Lennox and Menteith;
Vain was the bound of dark-brown doe,
When Malcolm bent his sounding bow, 545
And scarce that doe, though winged with fear,
Outstripped in speed the mountaineer;
Right up Ben-Lomond could he press,
And not a sob his toil confess.
His form accorded with a mind 550
Lively and ardent, frank and kind;
A blither heart, till Ellen came,
Did never love nor sorrow tame;
It danced as lightsome in his breast,
As played the feather on his crest. 555
Yet friends, who nearest knew the youth,
His scorn of wrong, his zeal for truth,
And bards, who saw his features bold,
When kindled by the tales of old,
Said, were that youth to manhood grown, 560
Not long should Roderick Dhu's renown
Be foremost voiced by mountain fame,
But quail to that of Malcolm Graeme.
Now back they wend their watery way,
And, "O my sire!" did Ellen say, 565
"Why urge thy chase so far astray?
And why so late returned? And why"--
The rest was in her speaking eye.
"My child, the chase I follow far,
'Tis mimicry of noble war; 570
And with that gallant pastime reft
Were all of Douglas I have left.
I met young Malcolm as I strayed
Far eastward, in Glenfinlas' shade,
Nor strayed I safe; for all around, 575
Hunters and horsemen scoured the ground.
This youth, though still a royal ward,
Risked life and land to be my guard,
And through the passes of the wood
Guided my steps, not unpursued; 580
And Roderick shall his welcome make,
Despite old spleen, for Douglas' sake.
Then must he seek Strath-Endrick glen,
Nor peril aught for me again."
Sir Roderick, who to meet them came, 585
Reddened at sight of Malcolm Graeme,
Yet, not in action, word, or eye,
Failed aught in hospitality.
In talk and sport they whiled away
The morning of that summer day; 590
But at high noon a courier light
Held secret parley with the knight,
Whose moody aspect soon declared,
That evil were the news he heard.
Deep thought seemed toiling in his head; 595
Yet was the evening banquet made,
Ere he assembled round the flame,
His mother, Douglas, and the Graeme,
And Ellen too; then cast around
His eyes, then fixed them on the ground, 600
As studying phrase that might avail
Best to convey unpleasant tale.
Long with his dagger's hilt he played,
Then raised his haughty brow, and said:
"Short be my speech--nor time affords, 605
Nor my plain temper, glozing words.
Kinsman and father--if such name
Douglas vouchsafe to Roderick's claim;
Mine honored mother--Ellen--why,
My cousin, turn away thine eye?-- 610
And Graeme, in whom I hope to know
Full soon a noble friend or foe,
When age shall give thee thy command,
And leading in thy native land--
List all--The King's vindictive pride 615
Boasts to have tamed the Border-side,
Where chiefs, with hound and hawk who came
To share their monarch's silvan game,
Themselves in bloody toils were snared;
And when the banquet they prepared, 620
And wide their loyal portals flung,
O'er their own gateway struggling hung.
Loud cries their blood from Meggat's mead,
From Yarrow braes, and banks of Tweed,
Where the lone streams of Ettrick glide, 625
And from the silver Teviot's side;
The dales, where martial clans did ride,
Are now one sheep-walk, waste and wide.
This tyrant of the Scottish throne,
So faithless, and so ruthless known, 630
Now hither comes; his end the same,
The same pretext of silvan game.
What grace for Highland Chiefs, judge ye
By fate of Border chivalry.
Yet more; amid Glenfinlas' green, 635
Douglas, thy stately form was seen.
This by espial sure I know:
Your counsel in the strait I show."
Ellen and Margaret fearfully
Sought comfort in each other's eye, 640
Then turned their ghastly look, each one,
This to her sire, that to her son.
The hasty color went and came
In the bold cheek of Malcolm Graeme;
But from his glance it well appeared, 645
'Twas but for Ellen that he feared;
While, sorrowful, but undismayed,
The Douglas thus his counsel said:
"Brave Roderick, though the tempest roar,
It may but thunder and pass o'er; 650
Nor will I here remain an hour,
To draw the lightning on thy bower;
For well thou know'st, at this gray head
The royal bolt were fiercest sped.
For thee, who, at thy King's command, 655
Canst aid him with a gallant band,
Submission, homage, humbled pride,
Shall turn the Monarch's wrath aside.
Poor remnants of the Bleeding Heart,
Ellen and I will seek, apart, 660
The refuge of some forest cell,
There, like the hunted quarry, dwell,
Till on the mountain and the moor,
The stern pursuit be passed and o'er."
"No, by mine honor," Roderick said, 665
"So help me Heaven, and my good blade!
No, never! Blasted be yon Pine,
My fathers' ancient crest and mine,
If from its shade in danger part
The lineage of the Bleeding Heart! 670
Hear my blunt speech: Grant me this maid
To wife, thy counsel to mine aid;
To Douglas, leagued with Roderick Dhu,
Will friends and allies flock enow;
Like cause of doubt, distrust, and grief 675
Will bind to us each Western Chief.
When the loud pipes my bridal tell,
The Links of Forth shall hear the knell,
The guards shall start in Stirling's porch;
And, when I light the nuptial torch, 680
A thousand villages in flames
Shall scare the slumbers of King James!
--Nay, Ellen, blench not thus away,
And, mother, cease these signs, I pray;
I meant not all my heat might say. 685
Small need of inroad, or of fight,
When the sage Douglas may unite
Each mountain clan in friendly band,
To guard the passes of their land,
Till the foiled king, from pathless glen, 690
Shall bootless turn him home again."
There are who have, at midnight hour,
In slumber scaled a dizzy tower,
And, on the verge that beetled o'er
The ocean tide's incessant roar, 695
Dreamed calmly out their dangerous dream,
Till wakened by the morning beam;
When, dazzled by the eastern glow,
Such startler cast his glance below,
And saw unmeasured depth around, 700
And heard unintermitted sound,
And thought the battled fence so frail,
It waved like cobweb in the gale;
Amid his senses' giddy wheel,
Did he not desperate impulse feel, 705
Headlong to plunge himself below,
And meet the worst his fears foreshow?
Thus, Ellen, dizzy and astound,
As sudden ruin yawned around,
By crossing terrors wildly tossed, 710
Still for the Douglas fearing most,
Could scarce the desperate thought withstand,
To buy his safety with her hand.
Such purpose dread could Malcolm spy
In Ellen's quivering lip and eye, 715
And eager rose to speak--but ere
His tongue could hurry forth his fear,
Had Douglas marked the hectic strife,
Where death seemed combating with life;
For to her cheek, in feverish flood, 720
One instant rushed the throbbing blood,
Then ebbing back, with sudden sway,
Left its domain as wan as clay.
"Roderick, enough! enough!" he cried,
"My daughter cannot be thy bride; 725
Not that the blush to wooer dear,
Nor paleness that of maiden fear.
It may not be--forgive her, Chief,
Nor hazard aught for our relief.
Against his sovereign, Douglas ne'er 730
Will level a rebellious spear.
'Twas I that taught his youthful hand
To rein a steed and wield a brand;
I see him yet, the princely boy!
Not Ellen more my pride and joy; 735
I love him still, despite my wrongs,
By hasty wrath, and slanderous tongues.
O seek the grace you well may find,
Without a cause to mine combined."
Twice through the hall the Chieftain strode; 740
The waving of his tartans broad,
And darkened brow, where wounded pride
With ire and disappointment vied,
Seemed, by the torch's gloomy light,
Like the ill Demon of the night, 745
Stooping his pinions' shadowy sway
Upon the knighted pilgrim's way.
But, unrequited Love! thy dart
Plunged deepest its envenomed smart,
And Roderick, with thine anguish stung, 750
At length the hand of Douglas wrung,
While eyes, that mocked at tears before,
With bitter drops were running o'er.
The death-pangs of long-cherished hope
Scarce in that ample breast had scope, 755
But, struggling with his spirit proud,
Convulsive heaved its checkered shroud,
While every sob--so mute were all--
Was heard distinctly through the hall.
The son's despair, the mother's look, 760
Ill might the gentle Ellen brook;
She rose, and to her side there came,
To aid her parting steps, the Graeme.
Then Roderick from the Douglas broke--
As flashes flame through sable smoke, 765
Kindling its wreaths, long, dark, and low,
To one broad blaze of ruddy glow,
So the deep anguish of despair
Burst, in fierce jealousy, to air.
With stalwart grasp his hand he laid 770
On Malcolm's breast and belted plaid:
"Back, beardless boy!" he sternly said,
"Back, minion! hold'st thou thus at naught
The lesson I so lately taught?
This roof, the Douglas, and that maid, 775
Thank thou for punishment delayed."
Eager as a greyhound on his game
Fiercely with Roderick grappled Graeme.
"Perish my name, if aught afford
Its Chieftain's safety save his sword!" 780
Thus as they strove, their desperate hand
Griped to the dagger or the brand,
And death had been--but Douglas rose,
And thrust between the struggling foes
His giant strength: "Chieftains, forego! 785
I hold the first who strikes, my foe.
Madmen, forbear your frantic jar!
What! is the Douglas fallen so far,
His daughter's hand is deemed the spoil
Of such dishonorable broil!" 790
Sullen and slowly they unclasp,
As struck with shame, their desperate grasp,
And each upon his rival glared,
With foot advanced, and blade half bared.
Ere yet the brands aloft were flung 795
Margaret on Roderick's mantle hung,
And Malcolm heard his Ellen's scream,
As faltered through terrific dream.
Then Roderick plunged in sheath his sword
And veiled his wrath in scornful word: 800
"Rest safe till morning; pity 'twere
Such cheek should feel the midnight air!
Then mayest thou to James Stuart tell,
Roderick will keep the lake and fell,
Nor lackey, with his freeborn clan, 805
The pageant pomp of earthly man.
More would he of Clan-Alpine know,
Thou canst our strength and passes show.
Malise, what ho!"--his henchman came;
"Give our safe-conduct to the Graeme." 810
Young Malcolm answered, calm and bold,
"Fear nothing for thy favorite hold;
The spot, an angel deigned to grace,
Is blessed, though robbers haunt the place.
Thy churlish courtesy for those 815
Reserve, who fear to be thy foes.
As safe to me the mountain way
At midnight as in blaze of day,
Though with his boldest at his back
Even Roderick Dhu beset the track.-- 820
Brave Douglas--lovely Ellen--nay,
Nought here of parting will I say.
Earth does not hold a lonesome glen
So secret but we meet again.--
Chieftain! we too shall find an hour," 825
He said, and left the silvan bower.
Old Allan followed to the strand--
Such was the Douglas's command--
And anxious told, how, on the morn,
The stern Sir Roderick deep had sworn 830
The Fiery Cross should circle o'er
Dale, glen, and valley, down, and moor.
Much were the peril to the Graeme
From those who to the signal came;
Far up the lake 'twere safest land, 835
Himself would row him to the strand.
He gave his counsel to the wind,
While Malcolm did, unheeding, bind,
Round dirk and pouch and broadsword rolled,
His ample plaid in tightened fold, 840
And stripped his limbs to such array,
As best might suit the watery way--
Then spoke abrupt: "Farewell to thee,
Pattern of old fidelity!"
The Minstrel's hand he kindly pressed-- 845
"Oh, could I point a place of rest!
My sovereign holds in ward my land,
My uncle leads my vassal band;
To tame his foes, his friends to aid,
Poor Malcolm has but heart and blade. 850
Yet, if there be one faithful Graeme,
Who loves the chieftain of his name,
Not long shall honored Douglas dwell
Like hunted stag in mountain cell;
Nor, ere yon pride-swoll'n robber dare, 855
I might not give the rest to air!
Tell Roderick Dhu, I owed him nought,
Not the poor service of a boat,
To waft me to yon mountain-side."
Then plunged he in the flashing tide. 860
Bold o'er the flood his head he bore,
And stoutly steered him from the shore;
And Allan strained his anxious eye,
Far mid the lake his form to spy,
Darkening across each puny wave, 865
To which the moon her silver gave,
Fast as the cormorant could skim,
The swimmer plied each active limb;
Then landing in the moonlight dell,
Loud shouted of his weal to tell. 870
The Minstrel heard the far halloo,
And joyful from the shore withdrew.
Time rolls his ceaseless course. The race of yore,
Who danced our infancy upon their knee,
And told our marveling boyhood legends store
Of their strange ventures happed by land or sea,
How are they blotted from the things that be! 5
How few, all weak and withered of their force,
Wait on the verge of dark eternity,
Like stranded wrecks, the tide returning hoarse,
To sweep them from our sight! Time rolls his ceaseless course.
Yet live there still who can remember well, 10
How, when a mountain chief his bugle blew,
Both field and forest, dingle, cliff, and dell,
And solitary heath, the signal knew;
And fast the faithful clan around him drew,
What time the warning note was keenly wound, 15
What time aloft their kindred banner flew,
While clamorous war-pipes yelled the gathering sound,
And while the Fiery Cross glanced, like a meteor, round.
The summer dawn's reflected hue
To purple changed Loch Katrine blue; 20
Mildly and soft the western breeze
Just kissed the lake, just stirred the trees,
And the pleased lake, like maiden coy,
Trembled but dimpled not for joy;
The mountain-shadows on her breast 25
Were neither broken nor at rest;
In bright uncertainty they lie,
Like future joys to Fancy's eye.
The water-lily to the light
Her chalice reared of silver bright; 30
The doe awoke, and to the lawn,
Begemmed with dew-drops, led her fawn;
The gray mist left the mountain side,
The torrent showed its glistening pride;
Invisible in fleckéd sky, 35
The lark sent down her revelry;
The blackbird and the speckled thrush,
Good-morrow gave from brake and bush;
In answer cooed the cushat dove
Her notes of peace, and rest, and love. 40
No thought of peace, no thought of rest,
Assuaged the storm in Roderick's breast.
With sheathéd broadsword in his hand,
Abrupt he paced the islet strand,
And eyed the rising sun, and laid 45
His hand on his impatient blade.
Beneath a rock, his vassals' care
Was prompt the ritual to prepare,
With deep and deathful meaning fraught;
For such Antiquity had taught 50
Was preface meet, ere yet abroad
The Cross of Fire should take its road.
The shrinking band stood oft aghast
At the impatient glance he cast--
Such glance the mountain eagle threw, 55
As, from the cliffs of Benvenue,
She spread her dark sails on the wind,
And, high in middle heaven reclined,
With her broad shadow on the lake,
Silenced the warblers of the brake. 60
A heap of withered boughs was piled,
Of juniper and rowan wild,
Mingled with shivers from the oak,
Rent by the lightning's recent stroke.
Brian, the Hermit, by it stood, 65
Barefooted, in his frock and hood.
His grizzled beard and matted hair
Obscured a visage of despair;
His naked arms and legs, seamed o'er,
The scars of frantic penance bore. 70
That monk, of savage form and face,
The impending danger of his race
Had drawn from deepest solitude,
Far in Benharrow's bosom rude.
Not his the mien of Christian priest, 75
But Druid's, from the grave released,
Whose hardened heart and eye might brook
On human sacrifice to look;
And much, 'twas said, of heathen lore
Mixed in the charms he muttered o'er. 80
The hallowed creed gave only worse
And deadlier emphasis of curse;
No peasant sought that Hermit's prayer,
His cave the pilgrim shunned with care,
The eager huntsman knew his bound, 85
And in mid chase called off his hound;
Or if, in lonely glen or strath,
The desert-dweller met his path,
He prayed, and signed the cross between,
While terror took devotion's mien. 90
Of Brian's birth strange tales were told.
His mother watched a midnight fold,
Built deep within a dreary glen,
Where scattered lay the bones of men
In some forgotten battle slain, 95
And bleached by drifting wind and rain.
It might have tamed a warrior's heart,
To view such mockery of his art!
The knot-grass fettered there the hand
Which once could burst an iron band; 100
Beneath the broad and ample bone,
That bucklered heart to fear unknown,
A feeble and a timorous guest,
The fieldfare framed her lowly nest;
There the slow blindworm left his slime 105
On the fleet limbs that mocked at time;
And there, too, lay the leader's skull,
Still wreathed with chaplet, flushed and full,
For heath-bell with her purple bloom
Supplied the bonnet and the plume. 110
All night, in this sad glen, the maid
Sat, shrouded in her mantle's shade:
She said no shepherd sought her side,
No hunter's hand her snood untied;
Yet ne'er again to braid her hair 115
The virgin snood did Alice wear;
Gone was her maiden glee and sport,
Her maiden girdle all too short,
Nor sought she, from that fatal night,
Or holy church or blessed rite, 120
But locked her secret in her breast,
And died in travail, unconfessed.
Alone, among his young compeers,
Was Brian from his infant years;
A moody and heartbroken boy, 125
Estranged from sympathy and joy,
Bearing each taunt with careless tongue
On his mysterious lineage flung.
Whole nights he spent by moonlight pale,
To wood and stream his hap to wail, 130
Till, frantic, he as truth received
What of his birth the crowd believed,
And sought, in mist and meteor fire,
To meet and know his Phantom Sire!
In vain, to soothe his wayward fate, 135
The cloister oped her pitying gate;
In vain, the learning of the age
Unclasped the sable-lettered page;
Even in its treasures he could find
Food for the fever of his mind. 140
Eager he read whatever tells
Of magic, cabala, and spells,
And every dark pursuit allied
To curious and presumptuous pride;
Till with fired brain and nerves o'erstrung, 145
And heart with mystic horrors wrung,
Desperate he sought Benharrow's den,
And hid him from the haunts of men.
The desert gave him visions wild,
Such as might suit the specter's child. 150
Where with black cliffs the torrents toil,
He watched the wheeling eddies boil,
Till, from their foam, his dazzled eyes
Beheld the River Demon rise;
The mountain mist took form and limb, 155
Of noontide hag, or goblin grim;
The midnight wind came wild and dread,
Swelled with the voices of the dead;
Far on the future battle-heath
His eyes beheld the ranks of death. 160
Thus the lone Seer, from mankind hurled,
Shaped forth a disembodied world.
One lingering sympathy of mind
Still bound him to the mortal kind;
The only parent he could claim 165
Of ancient Alpine lineage came.
Late had he heard, in prophet's dream,
The fatal Ben-Shie's boding scream;
Sounds, too, had come in midnight blast,
Of charging steeds, careering fast 170
Along Benharrow's shingly side,
Where mortal horseman ne'er might ride;
The thunderbolt had split the pine--
All augured ill to Alpine's line.
He girt his loins, and came to show 175
The signals of impending woe,
And now stood prompt to bless or ban,
As bade the Chieftain of his clan.
'Twas all prepared--and from the rock,
A goat, the patriarch of the flock, 180
Before the kindling pile was laid,
And pierced by Roderick's ready blade.
Patient the sickening victim eyed
The life-blood ebb in crimson tide,
Down his clogged beard and shaggy limb, 185
Till darkness glazed his eyeballs dim.
The grisly priest, with murmuring prayer,
A slender crosslet formed with care,
A cubit's length in measure due;
The shaft and limbs were rods of yew, 190
Whose parents in Inch-Cailliach wave
Their shadows o'er Clan-Alpine's grave,
And, answering Lomond's breezes deep,
Soothe many a chieftain's endless sleep.
The Cross, thus formed, he held on high, 195
With wasted hand and haggard eye,
And strange and mingled feelings woke;
While his anathema he spoke.
"Woe to the clansman, who shall view
This symbol of sepulchral yew, 200
Forgetful that its branches grew
Where weep the heavens their holiest dew
On Alpine's dwelling low!
Deserter of his Chieftain's trust,
He ne'er shall mingle with their dust, 205
But, from his sires and kindred thrust,
Each clansman's execration just
Shall doom him wrath and woe."
He paused--the word the vassals took,
With forward step and fiery look, 210
On high their naked brands they shook,
Their clattering targets wildly strook;
And first in murmur low,
Then, like the billow in his course,
That far to seaward finds his source, 215
And flings to shore his mustered force,
Burst, with loud roar, their answer hoarse,
"Woe to the traitor, woe!"
Ben-an's grey scalp the accents knew,
The joyous wolf from cover drew, 220
The exulting eagle screamed afar--
They knew the voice of Alpine's war.
The shout was hushed on lake and fell,
The Monk resumed his muttered spell;
Dismal and low its accents came, 225
The while he scathed the Cross with flame:
And the few words that reached the air,
Although the holiest name was there,
Had more of blasphemy than prayer.
But when he shook above the crowd 230
Its kindled points, he spoke aloud:
"Woe to the wretch, who fails to rear
At this dread sign the ready spear!
For, as the flames this symbol sear,
His home, the refuge of his fear, 235
A kindred fate shall know;
Far o'er its roof the volumed flame
Clan-Alpine's vengeance shall proclaim,
While maids and matrons on his name
Shall call down wretchedness and shame, 240
And infamy and woe."
Then rose the cry of females, shrill
As goshawk's whistle on the hill,
Denouncing misery and ill,
Mingled with childhood's babbling trill 245
Of curses stammered slow;
Answering, with imprecation dread,
"Sunk be his home in embers red!
And curséd be the meanest shed
That e'er shall hide the houseless head 250
We doom to want and woe!"
A sharp and shrieking echo gave,
Coir-Uriskin, thy goblin cave!
And the gray pass where birches wave,
On Beala-nam-bo. 255
Then deeper paused the priest anew,
And hard his laboring breath he drew,
While, with set teeth and clenched hand,
And eyes that glowed like fiery brand,
He meditated curse more dread, 260
And deadlier, on the clansman's head,
Who, summoned to his chieftain's aid,
The signal saw and disobeyed.
The crosslet's points of sparkling wood
He quenched among the bubbling blood, 265
And, as again the sign he reared,
Hollow and hoarse his voice was heard:
"When flits this Cross from man to man,
Vich-Alpine's summons to his clan,
Burst be the ear that fails to heed! 270
Palsied the foot that shuns to speed!
May ravens tear the careless eyes,
Wolves make the coward heart their prize!
As sinks that blood-stream in the earth,
So may his heart's blood drench his hearth! 275
As dies in hissing gore the spark,
Quench thou his light, Destruction dark!
And be the grace to him denied,
Bought by this sign to all beside!"
He ceased; no echo gave again 280
The murmur of the deep Amen.
Then Roderick, with impatient look,
From Brian's hand the symbol took:
"Speed, Malise, speed!" he said, and gave
The crosslet to his henchman brave. 285
"The muster-place be Lanrick mead--
Instant the time--speed, Malise, speed!"
Like heath-bird, when the hawks pursue,
A barge across Loch Katrine flew;
High stood the henchman on the prow, 290
So rapidly the barge-men row,
The bubbles, where they launched the boat,
Were all unbroken and afloat,
Dancing in foam and ripple still,
When it had neared the mainland hill; 295
And from the silver beach's side
Still was the prow three fathom wide,
When lightly bounded to the land
The messenger of blood and brand.
Speed, Malise, speed! the dun deer's hide 300
On fleeter foot was never tied.
Speed, Malise, speed! such cause of haste
Thine active sinews never braced.
Bend 'gainst the steepy hill thy breast,
Burst down like torrent from its crest; 305
With short and springing footstep pass
The trembling bog and false morass;
Across the brook like roebuck bound,
And thread the brake like questing hound;
The crag is high, the scar is deep, 310
Yet shrink not from the desperate leap:
Parched are thy burning lips and brow.
Yet by the fountain pause not now;
Herald of battle, fate, and fear,
Stretch onward in thy fleet career! 315
The wounded hind thou track'st not now,
Pursuest not maid through greenwood bough,
Nor pliest thou now thy flying pace,
With rivals in the mountain race;
But danger, death, and warrior deed, 320
Are in thy course--speed, Malise, speed!
Fast as the fatal symbol flies,
In arms the huts and hamlets rise;
From winding glen, from upland brown,
They poured each hardy tenant down. 325
Nor slacked the messenger his pace;
He showed the sign, he named the place,
And, pressing forward like the wind,
Left clamor and surprise behind.
The fisherman forsook the strand, 330
The swarthy smith took dirk and brand;
With changéd cheer, the mower blithe
Left in the half-cut swathe the scythe;
The herds without a keeper strayed,
The plow was in mid-furrow stayed, 335
The falc'ner tossed his hawk away,
The hunter left the stag at bay;
Prompt at the signal of alarms,
Each son of Alpine rushed to arms;
So swept the tumult and affray 340
Along the margin of Achray.
Alas, thou lovely lake! that e'er
Thy banks should echo sounds of fear!
The rocks, the bosky thickets, sleep
So stilly on thy bosom deep, 345
The lark's blithe carol, from the cloud
Seems for the scene too gaily loud.
Speed, Malise, speed! the lake is past,
Duncraggan's huts appear at last,
And peep, like moss-grown rocks, half seen, 350
Half hidden in the copse so green;
There mayst thou rest, thy labor done,
Their Lord shall speed the signal on.
As stoops the hawk upon his prey,
The henchman shot him down the way. 355
--What woeful accents load the gale?
The funeral yell, the female wail!
A gallant hunter's sport is o'er,
A valiant warrior fights no more.
Who, in the battle or the chase, 360
At Roderick's side shall fill his place!--
Within the hall, where torches' ray
Supplies the excluded beams of day,
Lies Duncan on his lowly bier,
And o'er him streams his widow's tear. 365
His stripling son stands mournful by,
His youngest weeps, but knows not why;
The village maids and matrons round
The dismal coronach resound.
He is gone on the mountain, 370
He is lost to the forest,
Like a summer-dried fountain,
When our need was the sorest.
The font, reappearing,
From the raindrops shall borrow, 375
But to us comes no cheering,
To Duncan no morrow!
The hand of the reaper
Takes the ears that are hoary,
But the voice of the weeper 380
Wails manhood in glory.
The autumn winds rushing
Waft the leaves that are searest,
But our flower was in flushing,
When blighting was nearest. 385
Fleet foot on the correi,
Sage counsel in cumber,
Red hand in the foray,
How sound is thy slumber!
Like dew on the mountain, 390
Like the foam on the river,
Like the bubble on the fountain
Thou art gone, and forever!
See Stumah, who, the bier beside,
His master's corpse with wonder eyed-- 395
Poor Stumah! whom his least halloo
Could send like lightning o'er the dew,
Bristles his crest, and points his ears,
As if some stranger step he hears.
'Tis not a mourner's muffled tread, 400
Who comes to sorrow o'er the dead,
But headlong haste, or deadly fear,
Urge the precipitate career.
All stand aghast--unheeding all,
The henchman bursts into the hall; 405
Before the dead man's bier he stood;
Held forth the Cross besmeared with blood:
"The muster-place is Lanrick mead;
Speed forth the signal! clansmen, speed!"
Angus, the heir of Duncan's line, 410
Sprung forth and seized the fatal sign.
In haste the stripling to his side
His father's dirk and broadsword tied;
But when he saw his mother's eye
Watch him in speechless agony, 415
Back to her opened arms he flew,
Pressed on her lips a fond adieu--
"Alas!" she sobbed--"and yet be gone,
And speed thee forth, like Duncan's son!"
One look he cast upon the bier, 420
Dashed from his eye the gathering tear,
Breathed deep to clear his laboring breast,
And tossed aloft his bonnet crest,
Then, like the high-bred colt, when, freed,
First he essays his fire and speed, 425
He vanished, and o'er moor and moss
Sped forward with the Fiery Cross.
Suspended was the widow's tear,
While yet his footsteps she could hear;
And when she marked the henchman's eye 430
Wet with unwonted sympathy,
"Kinsman," she said, "his race is run,
That should have sped thine errand on;
The oak has fallen--the sapling bough
Is all Duncraggan's shelter now. 435
Yet trust I well, his duty done,
The orphan's God will guard my son.
And you, in many a danger true,
At Duncan's hest your blades that drew,
To arms, and guard that orphan's head! 440
Let babes and women wail the dead."
Then weapon-clang and martial call
Resounded through the funeral hall,
While from the walls the attendant band
Snatched sword and targe, with hurried hand; 445
And short and flitting energy
Glanced from the mourner's sunken eye,
As if the sounds to warrior dear,
Might rouse her Duncan from his bier.
But faded soon that borrowed force; 450
Grief claimed his right, and tears their course.
Benledi saw the Cross of Fire;
It glanced like lightning up Strath-Ire.
O'er dale and hill the summons flew,
Nor rest nor pause young Angus knew; 455
The tear that gathered in his eye
He left the mountain breeze to dry;
Until, where Teith's young waters roll
Betwixt him and a wooded knoll
That graced the sable strath with green, 460
The chapel of St. Bride was seen.
Swoln was the stream, remote the bridge,
But Angus paused not on the edge;
Though the dark waves danced dizzily,
Though reeled his sympathetic eye, 465
He dashed amid the torrent's roar.
His right hand high the crosslet bore,
His left the pole-ax grasped, to guide
And stay his footing in the tide.
He stumbled twice--the foam splashed high; 470
With hoarser swell the stream raced by;
And had he fallen--forever there,
Farewell Duncraggan's orphan heir!
But still, as if in parting life,
Firmer he grasped the Cross of strife, 475
Until the opposing bank he gained,
And up the chapel pathway strained.
A blithesome rout, that morning tide,
Had sought the chapel of St. Bride.
Her troth Tombea's Mary gave 480
To Norman, heir of Armandave.
And, issuing from the Gothic arch,
The bridal now resumed their march.
In rude, but glad procession, came
Bonneted sire and coif-clad dame; 485
And plaided youth, with jest and jeer,
Which snooden maiden would not hear:
And children, that, unwitting why,
Lent the gay shout their shrilly cry;
And minstrels, that in measures vied 490
Before the young and bonny bride,
Whose downcast eye and cheek disclose
The tear and blush of morning rose.
With virgin step, and bashful hand,
She held the kerchief's snowy band; 495
The gallant bridegroom, by her side,
Beheld his prize with victor's pride,
And the glad mother in her ear
Was closely whispering word of cheer.
Who meets them at the churchyard gate? 500
The messenger of fear and fate!
Haste in his hurried accent lies,
And grief is swimming in his eyes.
All dripping from the recent flood,
Panting and travel-soiled he stood, 505
The fatal sign of fire and sword
Held forth, and spoke the appointed word:
"The muster-place is Lanrick mead;
Speed forth the signal! Norman, speed!"
And must he change so soon the hand, 510
Just linked to his by holy band,
For the fell Cross of blood and brand?
And must the day, so blithe that rose
And promised rapture in the close,
Before its setting hour, divide 515
The bridegroom from the plighted bride?
O fatal doom!--it must! it must!
Clan-Alpine's cause, her Chieftain's trust,
Her summons dread, brook no delay;
Stretch to the race--away! away! 520
Yet slow he laid his plaid aside,
And, lingering, eyed his lovely bride,
Until he saw the starting tear
Speak woe he might not stop to cheer;
Then, trusting not a second look, 525
In haste he sped him up the brook,
Nor backward glanced, till on the heath
Where Lubnaig's lake supplies the Teith.
--What in the racer's bosom stirred?
The sickening pang of hope deferred, 530
And memory, with a torturing train
Of all his morning visions vain.
Mingled with love's impatience came
The manly thirst for martial fame;
The stormy joy of mountaineers, 535
Ere yet they rush upon the spears;
And zeal for Clan and Chieftain burning,
And hope, from well-fought field returning,
With war's red honors on his crest,
To clasp his Mary to his breast. 540
Stung by such thoughts, o'er bank and brae,
Like fire from flint he glanced away,
While high resolve, and feeling strong,
Burst into voluntary song.
The heath this night must be my bed, 545
The bracken curtain for my head,
My lullaby the warder's tread,
Far, far, from love and thee, Mary;
To-morrow eve, more stilly laid,
My couch may be my bloody plaid, 550
My vesper song, thy wail, sweet maid!
It will not waken me, Mary!
I may not, dare not, fancy now
The grief that clouds thy lovely brow,
I dare not think upon thy vow, 555
And all it promised me, Mary.
No fond regret must Norman know;
When bursts Clan-Alpine on the foe,
His heart must be like bended bow,
His foot like arrow free, Mary. 560
A time will come with feeling fraught,
For if I fall in battle fought,
Thy hapless lover's dying thought
Shall be a thought on thee, Mary.
And if returned from conquered foes, 565
How blithely will the evening close,
How sweet the linnet sing repose,
To my young bride and me, Mary!
Not faster o'er thy heathery braes,
Balquidder, speeds the midnight blaze, 570
Rushing, in conflagration strong,
Thy deep ravines and dells along,
Wrapping thy cliffs in purple glow,
And reddening the dark lakes below;
Nor faster speeds it, nor so far, 575
As o'er thy heaths the voice of war.
The signal roused to martial coil,
The sullen margin of Loch Voil,
Waked still Loch Doine, and to the source
Alarmed, Balvaig, thy swampy course; 580
Thence southward turned its rapid road
Adown Strath-Gartney's valley broad,
Till rose in arms each man might claim
A portion in Clan-Alpine's name,
From the gray sire, whose trembling hand 585
Could hardly buckle on his brand,
To the raw boy, whose shaft and bow
Were yet scarce terror to the crow.
Each valley, each sequestered glen,
Mustered its little horde of men, 590
That met as torrents from the height
In Highland dales their streams unite,
Still gathering, as they pour along,
A voice more loud, a tide more strong,
Till at the rendezvous they stood 595
By hundreds prompt for blows and blood,
Each trained to arms since life began,
Owning no tie but to his clan,
No oath, but by his chieftain's hand,
No law, but Roderick Dhu's command. 600
That summer morn had Roderick Dhu
Surveyed the skirts of Benvenue,
And sent his scouts o'er hill and heath,
To view the frontiers of Menteith.
All backward came with news of truce; 605
Still lay each martial Graeme and Bruce;
In Rednoch courts no horsemen wait,
No banner waved on Cardross gate,
On Duchray's towers no beacon shone,
Nor scared the herons from Loch Con; 610
All seemed at peace. Now wot ye why
The Chieftain, with such anxious eye,
Ere to the muster he repair,
This western frontier scanned with care?
In Benvenue's most darksome cleft, 615
A fair, though cruel, pledge was left;
For Douglas, to his promise true,
That morning from the isle withdrew,
And in a deep sequestered dell
Had sought a low and lonely cell. 620
By many a bard, in Celtic tongue,
Has Coir-nan-Uriskin been sung;
A softer name the Saxons gave,
And called the grot the Goblin-cave.
It was a wild and strange retreat, 625
As e'er was trod by outlaw's feet.
The dell, upon the mountain's crest,
Yawned like a gash on warrior's breast;
Its trench had stayed full many a rock,
Hurled by primeval earthquake shock 630
From Benvenue's gray summit wild,
And here, in random ruin piled,
They frowned incumbent o'er the spot,
And formed the rugged silvan grot.
The oak and birch, with mingled shade, 635
At noontide there a twilight made,
Unless when short and sudden shone
Some straggling beam on cliff or stone,
With such a glimpse as prophet's eye
Gains on thy depth, Futurity. 640
No murmur waked the solemn still,
Save tinkling of a fountain rill;
But when the wind chafed with the lake,
A sullen sound would upward break,
With dashing hollow voice, that spoke 645
The incessant war of wave and rock.
Suspended cliffs, with hideous sway,
Seemed nodding o'er the cavern gray.
From such a den the wolf had sprung,
In such the wild-cat leaves her young; 650
Yet Douglas and his daughter fair
Sought for a space their safety there.
Gray Superstition's whisper dread
Debarred the spot to vulgar tread;
For there, she said, did fays resort, 655
And satyrs hold their silvan court,
By moonlight tread their mystic maze,
And blast the rash beholder's gaze.
Now eve, with western shadows long,
Floated on Katrine bright and strong, 660
When Roderick, with a chosen few,
Repassed the heights of Benvenue.
Above the Goblin-cave they go,
Through the wild pass of Beal-nam-bo:
The prompt retainers speed before, 665
To launch the shallop from the shore,
For 'cross Loch Katrine lies his way
To view the passes of Achray,
And place his clansmen in array.
Yet lags the chief in musing mind, 670
Unwonted sight, his men behind.
A single page, to bear his sword,
Alone attended on his lord;
The rest their way through thickets break,
And soon await him by the lake. 675
It was a fair and gallant sight,
To view them from the neighboring height,
By the low-leveled sunbeam's light!
For strength and stature, from the clan
Each warrior was a chosen man, 680
As even afar might well be seen,
By their proud step and martial mien.
Their feathers dance, their tartans float,
Their targets gleam, as by the boat
A wild and warlike group they stand, 685
That well became such mountain-strand.
Their Chief, with step reluctant, still
Was lingering on the craggy hill,
Hard by where turned apart the road
To Douglas's obscure abode. 690
It was but with that dawning morn,
That Roderick Dhu had proudly sworn
To drown his love in war's wild roar,
Nor think of Ellen Douglas more;
But he who stems a stream with sand, 695
And fetters flame with flaxen band,
Has yet a harder task to prove--
By firm resolve to conquer love!
Eve finds the Chief, like restless ghost,
Still hovering near his treasure lost; 700
For though his haughty heart deny
A parting meeting to his eye,
Still fondly strains his anxious ear,
The accents of her voice to hear,
And inly did he curse the breeze 705
That waked to sound the rustling trees.
But hark! what mingles in the strain?
It is the harp of Allan-bane,
That wakes its measures slow and high,
Attuned to sacred minstrelsy. 710
What melting voice attends the strings?
'Tis Ellen, or an angel, sings.
HYMN TO THE VIRGIN
_Ave Maria!_ maiden mild!
Listen to a maiden's prayer!
Thou canst hear though from the wild, 715
Thou canst save amid despair.
Safe may we sleep beneath thy care,
Though banished, outcast, and reviled--
Maiden! hear a maiden's prayer;
Mother, hear a suppliant child! 720
_Ave Maria!_ undefiled!
The flinty couch we now must share
Shall seem with down of eider piled,
If thy protection hover there. 725
The murky cavern's heavy air
Shall breathe of balm if thou hast smiled;
Then, Maiden! hear a maiden's prayer;
Mother, list a suppliant child!
_Ave Maria!_ 730
_Ave Maria!_ stainless styled!
Foul demons of the earth and air,
From this their wonted haunt exiled,
Shall flee before thy presence fair.
We bow us to our lot of care, 735
Beneath thy guidance reconciled;
Hear for a maid a maiden's prayer,
And for a father hear a child!
Died on the harp the closing hymn-- 740
Unmoved in attitude and limb,
As listening still, Clan-Alpine's lord
Stood leaning on his heavy sword,
Until the page, with humble sign,
Twice pointed to the sun's decline. 745
Then while his plaid he round him cast,
"It is the last time--'tis the last,"
He muttered thrice, "the last time e'er
That angel voice shall Roderick hear!"
It was a goading thought--his stride 750
Hied hastier down the mountain side;
Sullen he flung him in the boat,
And instant 'cross the lake it shot.
They landed in that silvery bay,
And eastward held their hasty way, 755
Till, with the latest beams of light,
The band arrived on Lanrick height,
Where mustered, in the vale below,
Clan-Alpine's men in martial show.
A various scene the clansmen made, 760
Some sat, some stood, some slowly strayed;
But most with mantles folded round,
Were couched to rest upon the ground,
Scarce to be known by curious eye,
From the deep heather where they lie, 765
So well was matched the tartan screen
With heath-bell dark and brackens green,
Unless where, here and there, a blade,
Or lance's point, a glimmer made,
Like glow-worm twinkling through the shade. 770
But when, advancing through the gloom,
They saw the Chieftain's eagle plume,
Their shout of welcome, shrill and wide,
Shook the steep mountain's steady side.
Thrice it arose, and lake and fell 775
Three times returned the martial yell;
It died upon Bochastle's plain,
And Silence claimed her evening reign.
"The rose is fairest when 'tis budding new,
And hope is brightest when it dawns from fears;
The rose is sweetest washed with morning dew,
And love is loveliest when embalmed in tears.
O wilding rose, whom fancy thus endears, 5
I bid your blossoms in my bonnet wave,
Emblem of hope and love through future years!"
Thus spake young Norman, heir of Armandave,
What time the sun arose on Vennachar's broad wave.
Such fond conceit, half said, half sung, 10
Love prompted to the bridegroom's tongue.
All while he stripped the wild-rose spray,
His ax and bow beside him lay,
For on a pass 'twixt lake and wood,
A wakeful sentinel he stood. 15
Hark! on the rock a footstep rung,
And instant to his arms he sprung.
"Stand, or thou diest!--What, Malise?--soon
Art thou returned from Braes of Doune.
By thy keen step and glance I know, 20
Thou bring'st us tidings of the foe."
For while the Fiery Cross hied on,
On distant scout had Malise gone.--
"Where sleeps the Chief?" the henchman said.
"Apart, in yonder misty glade; 25
To his lone couch I'll be your guide."
Then called a slumberer by his side,
And stirred him with his slackened bow--
"Up, up, Glantarkin! rouse thee, ho!
We seek the Chieftain; on the track, 30
Keep eagle watch till I come back."
Together up the pass they sped:
"What of the foeman?" Norman said.
"Varying reports from near and far;
This certain--that a band of war 35
Has for two days been ready boune,
At prompt command, to march from Doune;
King James, the while, with princely powers,
Holds revelry in Stirling towers.
Soon will this dark and gathering cloud 40
Speak on our glens in thunder loud.
Inured to bide such bitter bout,
The warrior's plaid may bear it out;
But, Norman, how wilt thou provide
A shelter for thy bonny bride?" 45
"What! know ye not that Roderick's care
To the lone isle hath caused repair
Each maid and matron of the clan,
And every child and aged man
Unfit for arms; and given his charge, 50
Nor skiff nor shallop, boat nor barge,
Upon these lakes shall float at large,
But all beside the islet moor,
That such dear pledge may rest secure?"--
"'Tis well advised--the Chieftain's plan 55
Bespeaks the father of his clan.
But wherefore sleeps Sir Roderick Dhu
Apart from all his followers true?"
"It is, because last evening-tide
Brian an augury hath tried, 60
Of that dread kind which must not be
Unless in dread extremity,
The Taghairm called; by which, afar,
Our sires foresaw the events of war.
Duncraggan's milk-white bull they slew." 65
"Ah! Well the gallant brute I knew,
The choicest of the prey we had,
When swept our merrymen Gallangad.
His hide was snow, his horns were dark,
His red eye glowed like fiery spark; 70
So fierce, so tameless, and so fleet,
Sore did he cumber our retreat,
And kept our stoutest kerns in awe,
Even at the pass of Beal 'maha.
But steep and flinty was the road, 75
And sharp the hurrying pikeman's goad,
And when we came to Dennan's Row,
A child might scatheless stroke his brow."
"That bull was slain; his reeking hide
They stretched the cataract beside, 80
Whose waters their wild tumult toss
Adown the black and craggy boss
Of that huge cliff, whose ample verge
Tradition calls the Hero's Targe.
Couched on a shelf beneath its brink, 85
Close where the thundering torrents sink,
Rocking beneath their headlong sway,
And drizzled by the ceaseless spray,
Midst groan of rock, and roar of stream,
The wizard waits prophetic dream. 90
Nor distant rests the Chief--but hush!
See, gliding slow through mist and bush,
The hermit gains yon rock, and stands
To gaze upon our slumbering bands.
Seems he not, Malise, like a ghost, 95
That hovers o'er a slaughtered host?
Or raven on the blasted oak,
That, watching while the deer is broke,
His morsel claims with sullen croak?"
"Peace! peace! to other than to me 100
Thy words were evil augury;
But still I hold Sir Roderick's blade
Clan-Alpine's omen and her aid,
Not aught that, gleaned from heaven or hell,
Yon fiend-begotten Monk can tell. 105
The Chieftain joins him, see--and now,
Together they descend the brow."
And, as they came, with Alpine's Lord
The Hermit Monk held solemn word:
"Roderick! it is a fearful strife, 110
For man endowed with mortal life,
Whose shroud of sentient clay can still
Feel feverish pang and fainting chill,
Whose eye can stare in stony trance,
Whose hair can rouse like warrior's lance-- 115
'Tis hard for such to view, unfurled,
The curtain of the future world.
Yet, witness every quaking limb,
My sunken pulse, my eyeballs dim,
My soul with harrowing anguish torn-- 120
This for my Chieftain have I borne!
The shapes that sought my fearful couch,
A human tongue may ne'er avouch;
No mortal man--save he, who, bred
Between the living and the dead, 125
Is gifted beyond nature's law--
Had e'er survived to say he saw.
At length the fatal answer came,
In characters of living flame!
Not spoke in word, nor blazed in scroll, 130
But borne and branded on my soul:
WHICH SPILLS THE FOREMOST FOEMAN'S LIFE,
THAT PARTY CONQUERS IN THE STRIFE."
"Thanks, Brian, for thy zeal and care!
Good is thine augury, and fair. 135
Clan-Alpine ne'er in battle stood,
But first our broadswords tasted blood.
A surer victim still I know,
Self-offered to the auspicious blow:
A spy has sought my land this morn-- 140
No eve shall witness his return!
My followers guard each pass's mouth,
To east, to westward, and to south;
Red Murdoch, bribed to be his guide,
Has charge to lead his steps aside, 145
Till in deep path or dingle brown,
He light on those shall bring him down.
--But see, who comes his news to show!
Malise! what tidings of the foe?"
"At Doune, o'er many a spear and glaive 150
Two Barons proud their banners wave.
I saw the Moray's silver star,
And marked the sable pale of Mar."
"By Alpine's soul, high tidings those!
I love to hear of worthy foes. 155
When move they on?" "Tomorrow's noon
Will see them here for battle boune."
"Then shall it see a meeting stern!
But, for the place--say, couldst thou learn
Nought of the friendly clans of Earn? 160
Strengthened by them, we well might bide
The battle on Benledi's side.
Thou couldst not! Well! Clan-Alpine's men
Shall man the Trossachs' shaggy glen;
Within Loch Katrine's gorge we'll fight, 165
All in our maids' and matrons' sight,
Each for his hearth and household fire,
Father for child, and son for sire--
Lover for maid beloved! But why--
Is it the breeze affects mine eye? 170
Or dost thou come, ill-omened tear!
A messenger of doubt and fear?
No! sooner may the Saxon lance
Unfix Benledi from his stance,
Than doubt or terror can pierce through 175
The unyielding heart of Roderick Dhu!
'Tis stubborn as his trusty targe.
Each to his post--all know their charge."
The pibroch sounds, the bands advance,
The broadswords gleam, the banners dance, 180
Obedient to the Chieftain's glance.
--I turn me from the martial roar,
And seek Coir-Uriskin once more.
Where is the Douglas?--he is gone;
And Ellen sits on the gray stone 185
Fast by the cave, and makes her moan;
While vainly Allan's words of cheer
Are poured on her unheeding ear:
"He will return--dear lady trust!
With joy return--he will--he must. 190
Well was it time to seek, afar,
Some refuge from impending war,
When e'en Clan-Alpine's rugged swarm
Are cowed by the approaching storm.
I saw their boats with many a light, 195
Floating the live-long yesternight,
Shifting like flashes darted forth
By the red streamers of the north;
I marked at morn how close they ride,
Thick moored by the lone islet's side, 200
Like wild-ducks couching in the fen,
When stoops the hawk upon the glen.
Since this rude race dare not abide
The peril on the mainland side,
Shall not thy noble father's care 205
Some safe retreat for thee prepare?"
"No, Allan, no! Pretext so kind
My wakeful terrors could not blind.
When in such tender tone, yet grave,
Douglas a parting blessing gave, 210
The tear that glistened in his eye
Drowned not his purpose fixed and high.
My soul, though feminine and weak,
Can image his; e'en as the lake,
Itself disturbed by slightest stroke, 215
Reflects the invulnerable rock.
He hears the report of battle rife,
He deems himself the cause of strife.
I saw him redden, when the theme
Turned, Allan, on thine idle dream 220
Of Malcolm Graeme in fetters bound,
Which I, thou saidst, about him wound.
Think'st thou he trowed thine omen aught?
Oh, no! 'twas apprehensive thought
For the kind youth--for Roderick too-- 225
Let me be just--that friend so true;
In danger both, and in our cause!
Minstrel, the Douglas dare not pause.
Why else that solemn warning given,
'If not on earth, we meet in heaven!' 230
Why else, to Cambus-kenneth's fane,
If eve return him not again,
Am I to hie, and make me known?
Alas! he goes to Scotland's throne,
Buys his friend's safety with his own; 235
He goes to do--what I had done,
Had Douglas' daughter been his son!"
"Nay, lovely Ellen!--dearest, nay!
If aught should his return delay,
He only named yon holy fane 240
As fitting place to meet again.
Be sure he's safe; and for the Graeme--
Heaven's blessing on his gallant name!
My visioned sight may yet prove true,
Nor bode of ill to him or you. 245
When did my gifted dream beguile?
Think of the stranger at the isle,
And think upon the harpings slow,
That presaged this approaching woe!
Sooth was my prophecy of fear; 250
Believe it when it augurs cheer.
Would we had left this dismal spot!
Ill luck still haunts a fairy grot.
Of such a wondrous tale I know--
Dear lady, change that look of woe, 255
My harp was wont thy grief to cheer."
"Well, be it as thou wilt; I hear,
But cannot stop the bursting tear."
The minstrel tried his simple art,
But distant far was Ellen's heart. 260
Merry it is in the good greenwood,
When the mavis and merle are singing,
When the deer sweeps by, and the hounds are in cry,
And the hunter's horn is ringing.
"O Alice Brand, my native land 265
Is lost for love of you;
And we must hold by wood and wold,
As outlaws wont to do.
"O Alice, 'twas all for thy locks so bright,
And 'twas all for thine eyes so blue, 270
That on the night of our luckless flight,
Thy brother bold I slew.
"Now must I teach to hew the beech
The hand that held the glaive,
For leaves to spread our lowly bed, 275
And stakes to fence our cave.
"And for vest of pall, thy fingers small,
That wont on harp to stray,
A cloak must shear from the slaughtered deer,
To keep the cold away." 280
"O Richard! if my brother died,
'Twas but a fatal chance;
For darkling was the battle tried,
And fortune sped the lance.
"If pall and vair no more I wear, 285
Nor thou the crimson sheen,
As warm, we'll say, is the russet gray,
As gay the forest-green.
"And, Richard, if our lot be hard,
And lost thy native land, 290
Still Alice has her own Richard,
And he his Alice Brand."
'Tis merry, 'tis merry, in good greenwood,
So blithe Lady Alice is singing;
On the beech's pride, and oak's brown side, 295
Lord Richard's ax is ringing.
Up spoke the moody Elfin King,
Who wonned within the hill,
Like wind in the porch of a ruined church,
His voice was ghostly shrill. 300
"Why sounds yon stroke on beech and oak,
Our moonlight circle's screen?
Or who comes here to chase the deer,
Beloved of our Elfin Queen?
Or who may dare on wold to wear 305
The fairies' fatal green?
"Up, Urgan, up! to yon mortal hie,
For thou wert christened man;
For cross or sign thou wilt not fly,
For muttered word or ban. 310
"Lay on him the curse of the withered heart,
The curse of the sleepless eye;
Till he wish and pray that his life would part,
Nor yet find leave to die."
'Tis merry, 'tis merry, in good greenwood, 315
Though the birds have stilled their singing;
The evening blaze doth Alice raise,
And Richard is fagots bringing.
Up Urgan starts, that hideous dwarf,
Before Lord Richard stands, 320
And, as he crossed and blessed himself,
"I fear not sign," quoth the grisly elf,
"That is made with bloody hands."
But out then spoke she, Alice Brand,
That woman void of fear, 325
"And if there's blood upon his hand,
'Tis but the blood of deer."
"Now loud thou liest, thou bold of mood!
It cleaves unto his hand,
The stain of thine own kindly blood, 330
The blood of Ethert Brand."
Then forward stepped she, Alice Brand,
And made the holy sign,
"And if there's blood on Richard's hand,
A spotless hand is mine. 335
"And I conjure thee, Demon elf,
By Him whom Demons fear,
To show us whence thou art thyself,
And what thine errand here?"
"'Tis merry, 'tis merry, in Fairyland 340
When fairy birds are singing,
When the court doth ride by their monarch's side
With bit and bridle ringing;
"And gaily shines the Fairyland--
But all is glistening show, 345
Like the idle gleam that December's beam
Can dart on ice and snow.
"And fading, like that varied gleam,
Is our inconstant shape,
Who now like knight and lady seem, 350
And now like dwarf and ape.
"It was between the night and day,
When the Fairy King has power,
That I sunk down in a sinful fray,
And, 'twixt life and death, was snatched away 355
To the joyless Elfin bower.
"But wist I of a woman bold,
Who thrice my brow durst sign,
I might regain my mortal mold,
As fair a form as thine." 360
She crossed him once--she crossed him twice--
That lady was so brave;
The fouler grew his goblin hue,
The darker grew the cave.
She crossed him thrice, that lady bold; 365
He rose beneath her hand
The fairest knight on Scottish mold,
Her brother, Ethert Brand!
Merry it is in good greenwood,
When the mavis and merle are singing, 370
But merrier were they in Dunfermline gray,
When all the bells were ringing.
Just as the minstrel sounds were stayed,
A stranger climbed the steepy glade;
His martial step, his stately mien, 375
His hunting suit of Lincoln green,
His eagle glance, remembrance claims--
'Tis Snowdoun's Knight, 'tis James Fitz-James.
Ellen beheld as in a dream,
Then, starting, scarce suppressed a scream 380
"Oh, stranger! in such hour of fear,
What evil hap has brought thee here?"
"An evil hap how can it be
That bids me look again on thee?
By promise bound, my former guide 385
Met me betimes this morning tide,
And marshaled, over bank and bourne,
The happy path of my return."
"The happy path!--what! said he nought
Of war, of battle to be fought, 390
Of guarded pass?" "No, by my faith!
Nor saw I ought could augur scathe."
"O haste thee, Allan, to the kern,
--Yonder his tartans I discern;
Learn thou his purpose, and conjure 395
That he will guide the stranger sure!
What prompted thee, unhappy man?
The meanest serf in Roderick's clan
Had not been bribed by love or fear,
Unknown to him to guide thee here." 400
"Sweet Ellen, dear my life must be
Since it is worthy care from thee;
Yet life I hold but idle breath,
When love or honor's weighed with death.
Then let me profit by my chance, 405
And speak my purpose bold at once.
I come to bear thee from a wild,
Where ne'er before such blossom smiled;
By this soft hand to lead thee far
From frantic scenes of feud and war. 410
Near Bochastle my horses wait;
They bear us soon to Stirling gate.
I'll place thee in a lovely bower,
I'll guard thee like a tender flower"--
"O hush, Sir Knight! 'twere female art 415
To say I do not read thy heart;
Too much, before, my selfish ear
Was idly soothed my praise to hear.
That fatal bait hath lured thee back,
In deathful hour, o'er dangerous track; 420
And how, O how, can I atone
The wreck my vanity brought on!--
One way remains--I'll tell him all--
Yes! struggling bosom, forth it shall!
Thou, whose light folly bears the blame, 425
Buy thine own pardon with thy shame!
But first--my father is a man
Outlawed and exiled, under ban;
The price of blood is on his head,
With me 'twere infamy to wed. 430
Still wouldst thou speak?--then hear the truth!
Fitz-James, there is a noble youth--
If yet he is!--exposed for me
And mine to dread extremity--
Thou hast the secret of my heart; 435
Forgive, be generous, and depart!"
Fitz-James knew every wily train
A lady's fickle heart to gain,
But here he knew and felt them vain.
There shot no glance from Ellen's eye, 440
To give her steadfast speech the lie;
In maiden confidence she stood.
Though mantled in her cheek the blood,
And told her love with such a sigh
Of deep and hopeless agony, 445
As death had sealed her Malcolm's doom,
And she sat sorrowing on his tomb.
Hope vanished from Fitz-James's eye,
But not with hope fled sympathy.
He proffered to attend her side, 450
As brother would a sister guide.
"O little know'st thou Roderick's heart!
Safer for both we go apart.
O haste thee, and from Allan learn,
If thou may'st trust yon wily kern." 455
With hand upon his forehead laid,
The conflict of his mind to shade,
A parting step or two he made;
Then, as some thought had crossed his brain,
He paused, and turned, and came again. 460
"Hear, lady, yet, a parting word!
It chanced in fight that my poor sword
Preserved the life of Scotland's lord.
This ring the grateful Monarch gave,
And bade, when I had boon to crave, 465
To bring it back, and boldly claim
The recompense that I would name.
Ellen, I am no courtly lord,
But one who lives by lance and sword,
Whose castle is his helm and shield, 470
His lordship the embattled field.
What from a prince can I demand,
Who neither reck of state nor land?
Ellen, thy hand--the ring is thine;
Each guard and usher knows the sign. 475
Seek thou the king without delay--
This signet shall secure thy way--
And claim thy suit, whate'er it be,
As ransom of his pledge to me."
He placed the golden circlet on, 480
Paused--kissed her hand--and then was gone.
The aged Minstrel stood aghast,
So hastily Fitz-James shot past.
He joined his guide, and wending down
The ridges of the mountain brown, 485
Across the stream they took their way,
That joins Loch Katrine to Achray.
All in the Trossachs' glen was still,
Noontide was sleeping on the hill:
Sudden his guide whooped loud and high-- 490
"Murdoch! was that a signal cry?"
He stammered forth--"I shout to scare
Yon raven from his dainty fare."
He looked--he knew the raven's prey,
His own brave steed--"Ah! gallant gray! 495
For thee--for me, perchance--'twere well
We ne'er had seen the Trossachs' dell.
Murdoch, move first--but silently;
Whistle or whoop, and thou shalt die!"
Jealous and sullen on they fared, 500
Each silent, each upon his guard.
Now wound the path its dizzy ledge
Around a precipice's edge,
When lo! a wasted female form,
Blighted by wrath of sun and storm, 505
In tattered weeds and wild array,
Stood on a cliff beside the way,
And glancing round her restless eye,
Upon the wood, the rock, the sky,
Seemed naught to mark, yet all to spy. 510
Her brow was wreathed with gaudy broom;
With gesture wild she waved a plume
Of feathers which the eagles fling
To crag and cliff from dusky wing;
Such spoils her desperate step had sought, 515
Where scarce was footing for the goat.
The tartan plaid she first descried,
And shrieked till all the rocks replied;
As loud she laughed when near they drew,
For then the Lowland garb she knew; 520
And then her hands she wildly wrung,
And then she wept, and then she sung--
She sung!--the voice, in better time,
Perchance to harp or lute might chime;
And now, though strained and roughened, still 525
Rung wildly sweet to dale and hill.
They bid me sleep, they bid me pray,
They say my brain is warped and wrung--
I cannot sleep on Highland brae,
I cannot pray in Highland tongue. 530
But were I now where Allan glides,
Or heard my native Devan's tides,
So sweetly would I rest, and pray
That Heaven would close my wintry day!
'Twas thus my hair they bade me braid, 535
They made me to the church repair;
It was my bridal morn they said,
And my true love would meet me there.
But woe betide the cruel guile
That drowned in blood the morning smile! 540
And woe betide the fairy dream!
I only waked to sob and scream.
"Who is this maid? what means her lay?
She hovers o'er the hollow way,
And flutters wide her mantle gray, 545
As the lone heron spreads his wing,
By twilight, o'er a haunted spring."
"'Tis Blanche of Devan," Murdoch said,
"A crazed and captive Lowland maid,
Ta'en on the morn she was a bride, 550
When Roderick forayed Devan side.
The gay bridegroom resistance made,
And felt our Chief's unconquered blade.
I marvel she is now at large,
But oft she 'scapes from Maudlin's charge. 555
Hence, brain-sick fool!"--he raised his bow.
"Now, if thou strik'st her but one blow,
I'll pitch thee from the cliff as far
As ever peasant pitched a bar!"--
"Thanks, champion, thanks!" the maniac cried, 560
And pressed her to Fitz-James's side.
"See the gray pennons I prepare,
To seek my true-love through the air!
I will not lend that savage groom,
To break his fall, one downy plume! 565
No! Deep amid disjointed stones,
The wolves shall batten on his bones,
And then shall his detested plaid,
By bush and brier in mid air stayed,
Wave forth a banner fair and free, 570
Meet signal for their revelry."
"Hush thee, poor maiden, and be still!"
"Oh! thou look'st kindly and I will.
Mine eye has dried and wasted been,
But still it loves the Lincoln green; 575
And, though mine ear is all unstrung,
Still, still it loves the Lowland tongue.
"For O my sweet William was forester true,
He stole poor Blanche's heart away!
His coat it was all of the greenwood hue, 580
And so blithely he trilled the Lowland lay!
"It was not that I meant to tell....
But thou art wise and guessest well."
Then, in a low and broken tone,
And hurried note, the song went on. 585
Still on the Clansman, fearfully,
She fixed her apprehensive eye;
Then turned it on the Knight, and then
Her look glanced wildly o'er the glen.
"The toils are pitched, and the stakes are set, 590
Ever sing merrily, merrily;
The bows they bend, and the knives they whet,
Hunters live so cheerily.
"It was a stag, a stag of ten,
Bearing its branches sturdily; 595
He came stately down the glen,
Ever sing hardily, hardily.
"It was there he met with a wounded doe,
She was bleeding deathfully;
She warned him of the toils below, 600
Oh, so faithfully, faithfully!
"He had an eye, and he could heed,
Ever sing warily, warily;
He had a foot, and he could speed--
Hunters watch so narrowly." 605
Fitz-James's mind was passion-tossed,
When Ellen's hints and fears were lost;
But Murdoch's shout suspicion wrought,
And Blanche's song conviction brought.
Not like a stag that spies the snare, 610
But lion of the hunt aware,
He waved at once his blade on high,
"Disclose thy treachery, or die!"
Forth at full speed the Clansman flew,
But in his race his bow he drew. 615
The shaft just grazed Fitz-James's crest,
And thrilled in Blanche's faded breast.
Murdoch of Alpine! prove thy speed,
For ne'er had Alpine's son such need!
With heart of fire, and foot of wind, 620
The fierce avenger is behind!
Fate judges of the rapid strife--
The forfeit death--the prize is life!
Thy kindred ambush lies before,
Close couched upon the heathery moor; 625
Them couldst thou reach!--it may not be--
Thine ambushed kin thou ne'er shalt see,
The fiery Saxon gains on thee!
Resistless speeds the deadly thrust,
As lightning strikes the pine to dust; 630
With foot and hand Fitz-James must strain,
Ere he can win his blade again.
Bent o'er the fallen, with falcon eye,
He grimly smiled to see him die;
Then slower wended back his way, 635
Where the poor maiden bleeding lay.
She sat beneath a birchen-tree,
Her elbow resting on her knee;
She had withdrawn the fatal shaft,
And gazed on it, and feebly laughed; 640
Her wreath of broom and feathers gray,
Daggled with blood, beside her lay.
The Knight to staunch the life-stream tried--
"Stranger, it is in vain!" she cried.
"This hour of death has given me more 645
Of reason's power than years before;
For, as these ebbing veins decay,
My frenzied visions fade away.
A helpless injured wretch I die,
And something tells me in thine eye, 650
That thou wert mine avenger born.
Seest thou this tress?--Oh! still I've worn
This little tress of yellow hair,
Through danger, frenzy, and despair!
It once was bright and clear as thine, 655
But blood and tears have dimmed its shine.
I will not tell thee when 'twas shred,
Nor from what guiltless victim's head--
My brain would turn!--but it shall wave
Like plumage on thy helmet brave, 660
Till sun and wind shall bleach the stain,
And thou wilt bring it me again.
I waver still--O God! more bright
Let reason beam her parting light!--
Oh! by thy knighthood's honored sign, 665
And for thy life preserved by mine,
When thou shalt see a darksome man,
Who boasts him Chief of Alpine's Clan,
With tartans broad and shadowy plume
And hand of blood, and brow of gloom, 670
Be thy heart bold, thy weapon strong,
And wreak poor Blanche of Devan's wrong!--
They watch for thee by pass and fell....
Avoid the path.... O God!... farewell."
A kindly heart had brave Fitz-James; 675
Fast poured his eyes at pity's claims,
And now, with mingled grief and ire,
He saw the murdered maid expire.
"God, in my need, be my relief,
As I wreak this on yonder Chief!" 680
A lock from Blanche's tresses fair
He blended with her bridegroom's hair;
The mingled braid in blood he dyed.
And placed it on his bonnet-side:
"By Him whose word is truth! I swear 685
No other favor will I wear,
Till this sad token I imbrue
In the best blood of Roderick Dhu!
--But hark! what means yon faint halloo?
The chase is up--but they shall know, 690
The stag at bay's a dangerous foe."
Barred from the known but guarded way,
Through copse and cliffs Fitz-James must stray,
And oft must change his desperate track,
By stream and precipice turned back. 695
Heartless, fatigued, and faint, at length,
From lack of food and loss of strength,
He couched him in a thicket hoar,
And thought his toils and perils o'er:
"Of all my rash adventures past, 700
This frantic feat must prove the last!
Who e'er so mad but might have guessed,
That all this Highland hornet's nest
Would muster up in swarms so soon
As e'er they heard of bands at Doune? 705
Like bloodhounds now they search me out--
Hark, to the whistle and the shout!--
If further through the wilds I go,
I only fall upon the foe.
I'll couch me here till evening gray, 710
Then darkling try my dangerous way."
The shades of eve come slowly down,
The woods are wrapped in deeper brown,
The owl awakens from her dell,
The fox is heard upon the fell; 715
Enough remains of glimmering light
To guide the wanderer's steps aright,
Yet not enough from far to show
His figure to the watchful foe.
With cautious step, and ear awake, 720
He climbs the crag and threads the brake;
And not the summer solstice, there,
Tempered the midnight mountain air,
But every breeze, that swept the wold,
Benumbed his drenchéd limbs with cold. 725
In dread, in danger, and alone,
Famished and chilled, through ways unknown,
Tangled and steep, he journeyed on;
Till, as a rock's huge point he turned,
A watch-fire close before him burned. 730
Beside its embers red and clear,
Basked, in his plaid, a mountaineer;
And up he sprung with sword in hand--
"Thy name and purpose! Saxon, stand!"
"A stranger." "What dost thou require?" 735
"Rest and a guide, and food and fire.
My life's beset, my path is lost,
The gale has chilled my limbs with frost."
"Art thou a friend to Roderick?" "No."
"Thou darest not call thyself a foe?" 740
"I dare! to him and all the band
He brings to aid his murderous hand."
"Bold words!--but, though the beast of game
The privilege of chase may claim,
Though space and law the stag we lend, 745
Ere hound we slip, or bow we bend,
Who ever recked, where, how, or when,
The prowling fox was trapped or slain?
Thus treacherous scouts--yet sure they lie,
Who say thou camest a secret spy!" 750
"They do, by heaven!--Come Roderick Dhu,
And of his clan the boldest two,
And let me but till morning rest,
I write the falsehood on their crest."
"If by the blaze I mark aright, 755
Thou bear'st the belt and spur of Knight."
"Then by these tokens may'st thou know
Each proud oppressor's mortal foe."
"Enough, enough; sit down and share
A soldier's couch, a soldier's fare." 760
He gave him of his Highland cheer,
The hardened flesh of mountain deer;
Dry fuel on the fire he laid,
And bade the Saxon share his plaid.
He tended him like welcome guest, 765
Then thus his further speech addressed:
"Stranger, I am to Roderick Dhu
A clansman born, a kinsman true;
Each word against his honor spoke,
Demands of me avenging stroke; 770
Yet more--upon thy fate, 'tis said,
A mighty augury is laid.
It rests with me to wind my horn--
Thou art with numbers overborne;
It rests with me, here, brand to brand, 775
Worn as thou art, to bid thee stand;
But, not for clan, nor kindred's cause,
Will I depart from honor's laws;
To assail a wearied man were shame,
And stranger is a holy name; 780
Guidance and rest, food and fire,
In vain he never must require.
Then rest thee here till dawn of day;
Myself will guide thee on the way,
O'er stock and stone, through watch and ward, 785
Till past Clan-Alpine's outmost guard,
As far as Coilantogle's ford;
From thence thy warrant is thy sword."
"I take thy courtesy, by heaven,
As freely as 'tis nobly given!" 790
"Well, rest thee; for the bittern's cry
Sings us the lake's wild lullaby."
With that he shook the gathered heath,
And spread his plaid upon the wreath;
And the brave foemen, side by side, 795
Lay peaceful down like brothers tried,
And slept until the dawning beam
Purpled the mountain and the stream.
Fair as the earliest beam of eastern light,
When first, by the bewildered pilgrim spied,
It smiles upon the dreary brow of night,
And silvers o'er the torrent's foaming tide,
And lights the fearful path on mountain side; 5
Fair as that beam, although the fairest far,
Giving to horror grace, to danger pride,
Shine martial Faith, and Courtesy's bright star,
Through all the wreckful storms that cloud the brow of War.
That early beam, so fair and sheen, 10
Was twinkling through the hazel screen,
When rousing at its glimmer red,
The warriors left their lowly bed,
Looked out upon the dappled sky,
Muttered their soldier matins by, 15
And then awaked their fire, to steal,
As short and rude, their soldier meal.
That o'er, the Gael around him threw
His graceful plaid of varied hue,
And, true to promise, led the way, 20
By thicket green and mountain gray.
A wildering path--they winded now
Along the precipice's brow,
Commanding the rich scenes beneath,
The windings of the Forth and Teith, 25
And all the vales between that lie,
Till Stirling's turrets melt in sky;
Then, sunk in copse, their farthest glance
Gained not the length of horseman's lance.
'Twas oft so steep, the foot was fain 30
Assistance from the hand to gain;
So tangled oft, that, bursting through,
Each hawthorn shed her showers of dew--
That diamond dew, so pure and clear,
It rivals all but Beauty's tear! 35
At length they came where, stern and steep,
The hill sinks down upon the deep.
Here Vennachar in silver flows,
There, ridge on ridge, Benledi rose;
Ever the hollow path twined on, 40
Beneath steep bank and threatening stone;
An hundred men might hold the post
With hardihood against a host.
The rugged mountain's scanty cloak
Was dwarfish shrubs of birch and oak, 45
With shingles bare, and cliffs between,
And patches bright of bracken green,
And heather black, that waved so high,
It held the copse in rivalry.
But where the lake slept deep and still, 50
Dank osiers fringed the swamp and hill;
And oft both path and hill were torn,
Where wintry torrents down had borne,
And heaped upon the cumbered land
Its wreck of gravel, rocks and sand. 55
So toilsome was the road to trace,
The guide, abating of his pace,
Led slowly through the pass's jaws,
And asked Fitz-James, by what strange cause
He sought these wilds, traversed by few, 60
Without a pass from Roderick Dhu.
"Brave Gael, my pass, in danger tried,
Hangs in my belt, and by my side;
Yet, sooth to tell," the Saxon said,
"I dreamt not now to claim its aid. 65
When here, but three days since, I came,
Bewildered in pursuit of game,
All seemed as peaceful and as still
As the mist slumbering on yon hill;
Thy dangerous Chief was then afar, 70
Nor soon expected back from war.
Thus said, at least, my mountain-guide,
Though deep perchance the villian lied."
"Yet why a second venture try?"
"A warrior thou, and ask me why! 75
Moves our free course by such fixed cause
As gives the poor mechanic laws?
Enough, I sought to drive away
The lazy hours of peaceful day;
Slight cause will then suffice to guide 80
A Knight's free footsteps far and wide--
A falcon flown, a greyhound strayed,
The merry glance of mountain maid;
Or, if a path be dangerous known,
The danger's self is lure alone." 85
"Thy secret keep, I urge thee not;--
Yet, ere again ye sought this spot,
Say, heard ye nought of Lowland war,
Against Clan-Alpine, raised by Mar?"
"No, by my word--of bands prepared 90
To guard King James's sports I heard;
Nor doubt I aught, but, when they hear
This muster of the mountaineer,
Their pennons will abroad be flung,
Which else in Doune had peaceful hung." 95
"Free be they flung!--for we were loath
Their silken folds should feast the moth.
Free be they flung!--as free shall wave
Clan-Alpine's pine in banner brave.
But, Stranger, peaceful since you came, 100
Bewildered in the mountain game,
Whence the bold boast by which you show
Vich-Alpine's vowed and mortal foe?"
"Warrior, but yester-morn, I knew
Naught of thy Chieftain, Roderick Dhu, 105
Save as an outlawed desperate man,
The chief of a rebellious clan,
Who, in the Regent's court and sight,
With ruffian dagger stabbed a knight;
Yet this alone might from his part 110
Sever each true and loyal heart."
Wrathful at such arraignment foul,
Dark lowered the clansman's sable scowl.
A space he paused, then sternly said,
"And heard'st thou why he drew his blade? 115
Heard'st thou that shameful word and blow
Brought Roderick's vengeance on his foe?
What recked the Chieftain if he stood
On Highland heath, or Holy-Rood?
He rights such wrong where it is given, 120
If it were in the court of heaven."
"Still was it outrage--yet, 'tis true,
Not then claimed sovereignty his due;
While Albany, with feeble hand,
Held borrowed truncheon of command, 125
The young King, mewed in Stirling tower,
Was stranger to respect and power.
But then, thy Chieftain's robber life!
Winning mean prey by causeless strife,
Wrenching from ruined Lowland swain 130
His herds and harvest reared in vain--
Methinks a soul, like thine, should scorn
The spoils from such foul foray borne."
The Gael beheld him grim the while,
And answered with disdainful smile-- 135
"Saxon, from yonder mountain high,
I marked thee send delighted eye
Far to the south and east, where lay,
Extended in succession gay,
Deep waving fields and pastures green, 140
With gentle slopes and groves between;
These fertile plains, that softened vale,
Were once the birthright of the Gael;
The stranger came with iron hand,
And from our fathers reft the land. 145
Where dwell we now! See, rudely swell
Crag over crag, and fell o'er fell.
Ask we this savage hill we tread
For fattened steer or household bread;
Ask we for flocks these shingles dry, 150
And well the mountain might reply,
'To you, as to your sires of yore,
Belong the target and claymore!
I give you shelter in my breast,
Your own good blades must win the rest.' 155
Pent in this fortress of the North,
Think'st thou we will not sally forth,
To spoil the spoiler as we may,
And from the robber rend the prey?
Aye, by my soul! While on yon plain 160
The Saxon rears one shock of grain;
While, of ten thousand herds, there strays
But one along yon river's maze,
The Gael, of plain and river heir,
Shall, with strong hand, redeem his share. 165
Where live the mountain Chiefs who hold
That plundering Lowland field and fold
Is aught but retribution true?
Seek other cause 'gainst Roderick Dhu."
Answered Fitz-James, "And if I sought, 170
Think'st thou no other could be brought?
What deem ye of my path waylaid?
My life given o'er to ambuscade?"
"As of a meed to rashness due:
Hadst thou sent warning fair and true-- 175
I seek my hound, or falcon strayed,
I seek, good faith, a Highland maid--
Free hadst thou been to come and go;
But secret path marks secret foe.
Nor yet, for this, even as a spy, 180
Hadst thou, unheard, been doomed to die.
Save to fulfill an augury."
"Well, let it pass; nor will I now
Fresh cause of enmity avow,
To chafe thy mood and cloud thy brow. 185
Enough, I am by promise tied
To match me with this man of pride:
Twice have I sought Clan-Alpine's glen
In peace; but when I come again,
I come with banner, brand, and bow, 190
As leader seeks his mortal foe.
For love-lorn swain, in lady's bower,
Ne'er panted for the appointed hour,
As I, until before me stand
This rebel Chieftain and his band!" 195
"Have, then, thy wish!" He whistled shrill,
And he was answered from the hill;
Wild as the scream of the curlew,
From crag to crag the signal flew.
Instant, through copse and heath, arose 200
Bonnets and spears and bended bows;
On right, on left, above, below,
Sprung up at once the lurking foe;
From shingles gray their lances start,
The bracken bush sends forth the dart, 205
The rushes and the willow-wand
Are bristling into ax and brand,
And every tuft of broom gives life
To plaided warrior armed for strife.
That whistle garrisoned the glen 210
At once with full five hundred men,
As if the yawning hill to heaven
A subterranean host had given.
Watching their leader's beck and will,
All silent there they stood, and still. 215
Like the loose crags whose threatening mass
Lay tottering o'er the hollow pass,
As if an infant's touch could urge
Their headlong passage down the verge,
With step and weapon forward flung, 220
Upon the mountain-side they hung.
The Mountaineer cast glance of pride
Along Benledi's living side,
Then fixed his eye and sable brow
Full on Fitz-James--"How say'st thou now? 225
These are Clan-Alpine's warriors true;
And, Saxon--I am Roderick Dhu!"
Fitz-James was brave. Though to his heart
The life-blood thrilled with sudden start,
He manned himself with dauntless air, 230
Returned the Chief his haughty stare,
His back against a rock he bore,
And firmly placed his foot before:
"Come one, come all! this rock shall fly
From its firm base as soon as I." 235
Sir Roderick marked--and in his eyes
Respect was mingled with surprise,
And the stern joy which warriors feel
In foemen worthy of their steel.
Short space he stood--then waved his hand; 240
Down sunk the disappearing band;
Each warrior vanished where he stood,
In broom or bracken, heath or wood;
Sunk brand and spear and bended bow,
In osiers pale and copses low; 245
It seemed as if their mother Earth
Had swallowed up her warlike birth.
The wind's last breath had tossed in air,
Pennon, and plaid, and plumage fair;
The next but swept a lone hill-side, 250
Where heath and fern were waving wide.
The sun's last glance was glinted back,
From spear and glaive, from targe and jack,
The next, all unreflected, shone
On bracken green, and cold gray stone. 255
Fitz-James looked round--yet scarce believed
The witness that his sight received;
Such apparition well might seem
Delusion of a dreadful dream.
Sir Roderick in suspense he eyed, 260
And to his look the Chief replied,
"Fear naught--nay, that I need not say--
But--doubt not aught from mine array.
Thou art my guest--I pledged my word
As far as Coilantogle ford; 265
Nor would I call a clansman's brand
For aid against one valiant hand,
Though on our strife lay every vale
Rent by the Saxon from the Gael.
So move we on--I only meant 270
To show the reed on which you leant,
Deeming this path you might pursue
Without a pass from Roderick Dhu."
They moved--I said Fitz-James was brave,
As ever knight that belted glaive; 275
Yet dare not say, that now his blood
Kept on its wont and tempered flood,
As, following Roderick's stride, he drew
That seeming lonesome pathway through,
Which yet, by fearful proof, was rife 280
With lances, that, to take his life,
Waited but signal from a guide,
So late dishonored and defied.
Ever, by stealth, his eye sought round
The vanished guardians of the ground, 285
And still, from copse and heather deep,
Fancy saw spear and broadsword peep,
And in the plover's shrilly strain,
The signal whistle heard again.
Nor breathed he free till far behind 290
The pass was left; for then they wind
Along a wide and level green,
Where neither tree nor tuft was seen,
Nor rush nor bush of broom was near,
To hide a bonnet or a spear. 295
The Chief in silence strode before,
And reached that torrent's sounding shore,
Which, daughter of three mighty lakes,
From Vennachar in silver breaks,
Sweeps through the plain, and ceaseless mines 300
On Bochastle the moldering lines,
Where Rome, the Empress of the world,
Of yore her eagle wings unfurled.
And here his course the Chieftain stayed,
Threw down his target and his plaid, 305
And to the Lowland warrior said--
"Bold Saxon! to his promise just,
Vich-Alpine has discharged his trust.
This murderous Chief, this ruthless man,
This head of a rebellious clan, 310
Hath led thee safe, through watch and ward,
Far past Clan-Alpine's outmost guard.
Now, man to man, and steel to steel.
A Chieftain's vengeance thou shalt feel.
See, here, all vantageless I stand, 315
Armed, like thyself, with single brand;
For this is Coilantogle ford,
And thou must keep thee with thy sword."
The Saxon paused: "I ne'er delayed,
When foeman bade me draw my blade; 320
Nay more, brave Chief, I vowed thy death;
Yet sure thy fair and generous faith,
And my deep debt for life preserved,
A better meed have well deserved.
Can naught but blood our feud atone? 325
Are there no means?" "No, Stranger, none!
And hear--to fire thy flagging zeal--
The Saxon cause rests on thy steel;
For thus spoke Fate, by prophet bred
Between the living and the dead; 330
'Who spills the foremost foeman's life,
His party conquers in the strife.'"
"Then, by my word," the Saxon said,
"The riddle is already read.
Seek yonder brake beneath the cliff-- 335
There lies Red Murdoch, stark and stiff.
Thus Fate hath solved her prophecy,
Then yield to Fate, and not to me.
To James, at Stirling, let us go,
When, if thou wilt be still his foe, 340
Or if the King shall not agree
To grant thee grace and favor free,
I plight mine honor, oath, and word,
That, to thy native strengths restored,
With each advantage shalt thou stand, 345
That aids thee now to guard thy land."
Dark lightning flashed from Roderick's eye--
"Soars thy presumption, then, so high,
Because a wretched kern ye slew,
Homage to name to Roderick Dhu? 350
He yields not, he, to man nor Fate!
Thou add'st but fuel to my hate;
My clansman's blood demands revenge.
Not yet prepared?--By heaven, I change
My thought, and hold thy valor light 355
As that of some vain carpet knight,
Who ill deserved my courteous care,
And whose best boast is but to wear
A braid of his fair lady's hair."
"I thank thee, Roderick, for the word! 360
It nerves my heart, it steels my sword;
For I have sworn this braid to stain
In the best blood that warms thy vein.
Now, truce, farewell! and ruth, begone!--
Yet think not that by thee alone, 365
Proud Chief! can courtesy be shown;
Though not from copse, or heath, or cairn,
Start at my whistle clansmen stern,
Of this small horn one feeble blast
Would fearful odds against thee cast. 370
But fear not--doubt not--which thou wilt--
We try this quarrel hilt to hilt."
Then each at once his falchion drew,
Each on the ground his scabbard threw,
Each looked to sun, and stream, and plain, 375
As what they ne'er might see again;
Then foot, and point, and eye opposed,
In dubious strife they darkly closed.
Ill fared it then with Roderick Dhu,
That on the field his targe he threw, 380
Whose brazen studs and tough bull-hide
Had death so often dashed aside;
For, trained abroad his arms to wield,
Fitz-James's blade was sword and shield.
He practiced every pass and ward, 385
To thrust, to strike, to feint, to guard;
While less expert, though stronger far,
The Gael maintained unequal war.
Three times in closing strife they stood,
And thrice the Saxon blade drank blood; 390
No stinted draft, no scanty tide,
The gushing flood the tartans dyed.
Fierce Roderick felt the fatal drain,
And showered his blows like wintry rain;
And, as firm rock, or castle-roof, 395
Against the winter shower is proof,
The foe, invulnerable still,
Foiled his wild rage by steady skill;
Till, at advantage ta'en, his brand
Forced Roderick's weapon from his hand, 400
And backward borne upon the lea,
Brought the proud Chieftain to his knee.
"Now, yield thee, or by Him who made
The world, thy heart's blood dyes my blade!"--
"Thy threats, thy mercy, I defy! 405
Let recreant yield, who fears to die."
--Like adder darting from his coil,
Like wolf that dashes through the toil,
Like mountain-cat who guards her young,
Full at Fitz-James's throat he sprung; 410
Received, but recked not of a wound,
And locked his arms his foeman round.
Now, gallant Saxon, hold thine own!
No maiden's hand is round thee thrown!
That desperate grasp thy frame might feel, 415
Through bars of brass and triple steel!--
They tug, they strain! down, down they go,
The Gael above, Fitz-James below.
The Chieftain's gripe his throat compressed
His knee was planted in his breast; 420
His clotted locks he backward threw,
Across his brow his hand he drew,
From blood and mist to clear his sight,
Then gleamed aloft his dagger bright!
But hate and fury ill supplied 425
The stream of life's exhausted tide,
And all too late the advantage came,
To turn the odds of deadly game;
For, while the dagger gleamed on high,
Reeled soul and sense, reeled brain and eye. 430
Down came the blow! but in the heath
The erring blade found bloodless sheath.
The struggling foe may now unclasp
The fainting Chief's relaxing grasp;
Unwounded from the dreadful close, 435
But breathless all, Fitz-James arose.
He faltered thanks to Heaven for life,
Redeemed, unhoped, from desperate strife;
Next on his foe his look he cast,
Whose every gasp appeared his last; 440
In Roderick's gore he dipped the braid--
"Poor Blanche! thy wrongs are dearly paid;
Yet with thy foe must die, or live,
The praise that faith and valor give."
With that he blew a bugle-note, 445
Undid the collar from his throat,
Unbonneted, and by the wave
Sat down his brow and hands to lave.
Then faint afar are heard the feet
Of rushing steeds in gallop fleet; 450
The sounds increase, and now are seen
Four mounted squires in Lincoln green;
Two who bear lance, and two who lead,
By loosened rein, a saddled steed;
Each onward held his headlong course, 455
And by Fitz-James reined up his horse--
With wonder viewed the bloody spot--
"Exclaim not, gallants! question not.
You, Herbert and Luffness, alight,
And bind the wounds of yonder knight; 460
Let the gray palfrey bear his weight,
We destined for a fairer freight,
And bring him on to Stirling straight;
I will before at better speed,
To seek fresh horse and fitting weed. 465
The sun rides high--I must be boune,
To see the archer-game at noon;
But lightly Bayard clears the lea--
De Vaux and Herries, follow me.
"Stand, Bayard, stand!" The steed obeyed, 470
With arching neck and bended head,
And glancing eye and quivering ear
As if he loved his lord to hear.
No foot Fitz-James in stirrup stayed,
No grasp upon the saddle laid, 475
But wreathed his left hand in the mane,
And lightly bounded from the plain,
Turned on the horse his arméd heel,
And stirred his courage with the steel.
Bounded the fiery steed in air; 480
The rider sat erect and fair;
Then like a bolt from steel crossbow
Forth launched, along the plain they go.
They dashed that rapid torrent through,
And up Carhonie's hill they flew; 485
Still at the gallop pricked the Knight,
His merrymen followed as they might.
Along thy banks, swift Teith! they ride,
And in the race they mock thy tide;
Torry and Lendrick now are past, 490
And Deanstown lies behind them cast;
They rise, the bannered towers of Doune,
They sink in distant woodland soon;
Blair-Drummond sees the hoofs strike fire,
They sweep like breeze through Ochtertyre; 495
They mark just glance and disappear
The lofty brow of ancient Kier;
They bathe their coursers' sweltering sides,
Dark Forth! amid thy sluggish tides,
And on the opposing shore take ground, 500
With plash, with scramble, and with bound.
Right-hand they leave thy cliffs, Craig-Forth!
And soon the bulwark of the North,
Gray Stirling, with her towers and town,
Upon their fleet career looked down. 505
As up the flinty path they strained
Sudden his steed the leader reined;
A signal to his squire he flung,
Who instant to his stirrup sprung:
"Seest thou, De Vaux, yon woodsman gray, 510
Who townward holds the rocky way,
Of stature tall and poor array?
Mark'st thou the firm, yet active stride,
With which he scales the mountain-side?
Know'st thou from whence he comes, or whom?" 515
"No, by my word--a burly groom
He seems, who in the field or chase
A baron's train would nobly grace."
"Out, out, De Vaux! can fear supply,
And jealousy, no sharper eye? 520
Afar, ere to the hill he drew,
That stately form and step I knew;
Like form in Scotland is not seen,
Treads not such step on Scottish green.
'Tis James of Douglas, by Saint Serle! 525
The uncle of the banished Earl.
Away, away, to court, to show
The near approach of dreaded foe;
The King must stand upon his guard;
Douglas and he must meet prepared." 530
Then righthand wheeled their steeds, and straight
They won the castle's postern gate.
The Douglas, who had bent his way
From Cambus-Kenneth's abbey gray,
Now, as he climbed the rocky shelf, 535
Held sad communion with himself:
"Yes! all is true my fears could frame;
A prisoner lies the noble Graeme,
And fiery Roderick soon will feel
The vengeance of the royal steel. 540
I, only I, can ward their fate--
God grant the ransom come not late!
The Abbess hath her promise given,
My child shall be the bride of heaven.
Be pardoned one repining tear! 545
For He, who gave her, knows how dear,
How excellent!--but that is by,
And now my business is--to die.
--Ye towers! within whose circuit dread
A Douglas by his sovereign bled; 550
And thou, O sad and fatal mound!
That oft hast heard the death-ax sound,
As on the noblest of the land
Fell the stern headsman's bloody hand--
The dungeon, block, and nameless tomb 555
Prepare--for Douglas seeks his doom!
--But hark! what blithe and jolly peal
Makes the Franciscan steeple reel?
And see! upon the crowded street,
In motley groups what maskers meet! 560
Banner and pageant, pipe and drum,
And merry morris dancers come.
I guess, by all this quaint array,
The burghers hold their sports today.
James will be there; he loves such show, 565
Where the good yeoman bends his bow,
And the tough wrestler foils his foe,
As well as where, in proud career,
The high-born tilter shivers spear.
I'll follow to the Castle-park, 570
And play my prize--King James shall mark
If age has tamed these sinews stark,
Whose force so oft, in happier days,
His boyish wonder loved to praise."
The Castle gates were open flung, 575
The quivering drawbridge rocked and rung,
And echoed loud the flinty street
Beneath the coursers' clattering feet,
As slowly down the steep descent
Fair Scotland's King and nobles went, 580
While all along the crowded way
Was jubilee and loud huzza.
And ever James was bending low,
To his white jennet's saddle-bow,
Doffing his cap to city dame, 585
Who smiled and blushed for pride and shame.
And well the simperer might be vain--
He chose the fairest of the train.
Gravely he greets each city sire,
Commends each pageant's quaint attire. 590
Gives to the dancers thanks aloud,
And smiles and nods upon the crowd,
Who rend the heavens with their acclaims,
"Long live the Commons' King, King James!"
Behind the King thronged peer and knight, 595
And noble dame and damsel bright,
Whose fiery steeds ill brooked the stay
Of the steep street and crowded way.
But in the train you might discern
Dark lowering brow and visage stern; 600
There nobles mourned their pride restrained,
And the mean burgher's joys disdained;
And chiefs, who, hostage for their clan,
Were each from home a banished man,
There thought upon their own gray tower, 605
Their waving woods, their feudal power,
And deemed themselves a shameful part
Of pageant which they cursed in heart.
Now, in the Castle-park, drew out
Their checkered bands the joyous rout. 610
Their morricers, with bell at heel,
And blade in hand, their mazes wheel;
And chief, beside the butts, there stand
Bold Robin Hood and all his band--
Friar Tuck with quarterstaff and cowl, 615
Old Scathelocke with his surly scowl,
Maid Marion, fair as ivory bone,
Scarlet, and Mutch, and Little John;
Their bugles challenge all that will,
In archery to prove their skill. 620
The Douglas bent a bow of might--
His first shaft centered in the white,
And when in turn he shot again,
His second split the first in twain.
From the King's hand must Douglas take 625
A silver dart, the archer's stake;
Fondly he watched, with watery eye,
Some answering glance of sympathy--
No kind emotion made reply!
Indifferent as to archer wight, 630
The monarch gave the arrow bright.
Now, clear the ring! for, hand to hand,
The manly wrestlers take their stand.
Two o'er the rest superior rose,
And proud demanded mightier foes, 635
Nor called in vain; for Douglas came.
--For life is Hugh of Larbert lame;
Scarce better John of Alloa's fare,
Whom senseless home his comrades bear.
Prize of the wrestling match, the King 640
To Douglas gave a golden ring,
While coldly glanced his eye of blue,
As frozen drop of wintry dew.
Douglas would speak, but in his breast
His struggling soul his words suppressed; 645
Indignant then he turned him where
Their arms the brawny yeomen bare.
To hurl the massive bar in air.
When each his utmost strength had shown,
The Douglas rent an earth-fast stone 650
From its deep bed, then heaved it high,
And sent the fragment through the sky,
A rood beyond the farthest mark;
And still in Stirling's royal park,
The gray-haired sires, who know the past, 655
To strangers point the Douglas-cast,
And moralize on the decay
Of Scottish strength in modern day.
The vale with loud applauses rang,
The Ladies' Rock sent back the clang. 660
The King, with look unmoved, bestowed
A purse well-filled with pieces broad.
Indignant smiled the Douglas proud,
And threw the gold among the crowd,
Who now, with anxious wonder, scan, 665
And sharper glance, the dark gray man;
Till whispers rose among the throng,
That heart so free, and hand so strong,
Must to the Douglas blood belong.
The old men marked and shook the head, 670
To see his hair with silver spread,
And winked aside, and told each son,
Of feats upon the English done,
Ere Douglas of the stalwart hand
Was exiled from his native land. 675
The women praised his stately form,
Though wrecked by many a winter's storm;
The youth with awe and wonder saw
His strength surpassing Nature's law.
Thus judged, as is their wont, the crowd, 680
Till murmur rose to clamors loud.
But not a glance from that proud ring
Of peers who circled round the King,
With Douglas held communion kind,
Or called the banished man to mind; 685
No, not from those who, at the chase,
Once held his side the honored place,
Begirt his board, and, in the field,
Found safety underneath his shield;
For he, whom royal eyes disown, 690
When was his form to courtiers known!
The Monarch saw the gambols flag,
And bade let loose a gallant stag,
Whose pride, the holiday to crown,
Two favorite greyhounds should pull down, 695
That venison free, and Bordeaux wine,
Might serve the archery to dine.
But Lufra--whom from Douglas' side
Nor bribe nor threat could e'er divide,
The fleetest hound in all the North-- 700
Brave Lufra saw and darted forth.
She left the royal hounds mid-way,
And dashing on the antlered prey,
Sunk her sharp muzzle in his flank,
And deep the flowing life-blood drank. 705
The King's stout huntsman saw the sport
By strange intruder broken short,
Came up, and with his leash unbound,
In anger struck the noble hound.
The Douglas had endured, that morn, 710
The King's cold look, the nobles' scorn,
And last, and worst to spirit proud,
Had borne the pity of the crowd;
But Lufra had been fondly bred,
To share his board, to watch his bed, 715
And oft would Ellen, Lufra's neck
In maiden glee with garlands deck;
They were such playmates, that with name
Of Lufra, Ellen's image came.
His stifled wrath is brimming high, 720
In darkened brow and flashing eye;
As waves before the bark divide,
The crowd gave way before his stride;
Needs but a buffet and no more,
The groom lies senseless in his gore. 725
Such blow no other hand could deal,
Though gauntleted in glove of steel.
Then clamored loud the royal train,
And brandished swords and staves amain,
But stern the Baron's warning--"Back! 730
Back, on your lives, ye menial pack!
Beware the Douglas.--Yes! behold,
King James! the Douglas, doomed of old,
And vainly sought for near and far,
A victim to atone the war, 735
A willing victim, now attends,
Nor craves thy grace but for his friends."
"Thus is my clemency repaid?
Presumptuous Lord!" the monarch said;
"Of thy misproud ambitious clan, 740
Thou, James of Bothwell, wert the man,
The only man, in whom a foe
My woman-mercy would not know:
But shall a Monarch's presence brook
Injurious blow, and haughty look? 745
What ho! the Captain of our Guard!
Give the offender fitting ward.
Break off the sports!"--for tumult rose,
And yeomen 'gan to bend their bows--
"Break off the sports!" he said, and frowned, 750
"And bid our horsemen clear the ground."
Then uproar wild and misarray
Marred the fair form of festal day.
The horsemen pricked among the crowd,
Repelled by threats and insult loud; 755
To earth are borne the old and weak,
The timorous fly, the women shriek;
With flint, with shaft, with staff, with bar,
The hardier urge tumultuous war.
At once round Douglas darkly sweep 760
The royal spears in circle deep,
And slowly scale the pathway steep;
While on the rear in thunder pour
The rabble with disordered roar.
With grief the noble Douglas saw 765
The Commons rise against the law,
And to the leading soldier said--
"Sir John of Hyndford! 'twas my blade,
That knighthood on thy shoulder laid;
For that good deed, permit me then 770
A word with these misguided men.
"Hear, gentle friends! ere yet for me,
Ye break the bands of fealty.
My life, my honor, and my cause,
I tender free to Scotland's laws. 775
Are these so weak as must require
The aid of your misguided ire?
Or, if I suffer causeless wrong,
Is then my selfish rage so strong,
My sense of public weal so low, 780
That, for mean vengeance on a foe,
Those cords of love I should unbind,
Which knit my country and my kind?
O no! Believe, in yonder tower
It will not soothe my captive hour, 785
To know those spears our foes should dread,
For me in kindred gore are red;
To know, in fruitless brawl begun,
For me, that mother wails her son;
For me, that widow's mate expires; 790
For me, that orphans weep their sires;
That patriots mourn insulted laws,
And curse the Douglas for the cause.
O let your patience ward such ill,
And keep your right to love me still!" 795
The crowd's wild fury sunk again
In tears, as tempests melt in rain.
With lifted hands and eyes, they prayed
For blessings on his generous head,
Who for his country felt alone, 800
And prized her blood beyond his own.
Old men, upon the verge of life,
Blessed him who stayed the civil strife;
And mothers held their babes on high,
The self-devoted Chief to spy, 805
Triumphant over wrongs and ire,
To whom the prattlers owed a sire.
Even the rough soldier's heart was moved;
As if behind some bier beloved,
With trailing arms and drooping head, 810
The Douglas up the hill he led,
And at the Castle's battled verge,
With sighs resigned his honored charge.
The offended Monarch rode apart,
With bitter thought and swelling heart, 815
And would not now vouchsafe again
Through Stirling streets to lead his train.
"O Lennox, who would wish to rule
This changeling crowd, this common fool?
Hear'st thou," he said, "the loud acclaim, 820
With which they shout the Douglas name?
With like acclaim, the vulgar throat
Strained for King James their morning note;
With like acclaim they hailed the day
When first I broke the Douglas' sway; 825
And like acclaim would Douglas greet,
If he could hurl me from my seat.
Who o'er the herd would wish to reign,
Fantastic, fickle, fierce, and vain!
Vain as the leaf upon the stream, 830
And fickle as a changeful dream;
Fantastic as a woman's mood,
And fierce as Frenzy's fevered blood.
Thou many-headed monster-thing,
O who could wish to be thy king! 835
"But soft! what messenger of speed
Spurs hitherward his panting steed?
I guess his cognizance afar--
What from our cousin, John of Mar?"--
"He prays, my liege, your sports keep bound 840
Within the safe and guarded ground;
For some foul purpose yet unknown--
Most sure for evil to the throne--
The outlawed Chieftain, Roderick Dhu,
Has summoned his rebellious crew; 845
'Tis said, in James of Bothwell's aid
These loose banditti stand arrayed.
The Earl of Mar, this morn, from Doune,
To break their muster marched, and soon
Your Grace will hear of battle fought; 850
But earnestly the Earl besought,
Till for such danger he provide,
With scanty train you will not ride."
"Thou warn'st me I have done amiss--
I should have earlier looked to this; 855
I lost it in this bustling day.
Retrace with speed thy former way;
Spare not for spoiling of thy steed
The best of mine shall be thy meed.
Say to our faithful Lord of Mar, 860
We do forbid the intended war.
Roderick, this morn, in single fight,
Was made our prisoner by a knight;
And Douglas hath himself and cause
Submitted to our kingdom's laws. 865
The tidings of their leaders lost
Will soon dissolve the mountain host,
Nor would we that the vulgar feel
For their Chief's crimes, avenging steel.
Bear Mar our message, Braco; fly!" 870
He turned his steed--"My liege, I hie,
Yet, ere I cross this lily lawn,
I fear the broadswords will be drawn."
The turf the flying courser spurned,
And to his towers the King returned. 875
Ill with King James's mood that day,
Suited gay feast and minstrel lay;
Soon were dismissed the courtly throng,
And soon cut short the festal song.
Nor less upon the saddened town 880
The evening sunk in sorrow down.
The burghers spoke of civil jar,
Of rumored feuds and mountain war,
Of Moray, Mar, and Roderick Dhu,
All up in arms--The Douglas too, 885
They mourned him pent within the hold,
"Where stout Earl William was of old."
And there his word the speaker stayed,
And finger on his lip he laid,
Or pointed to his dagger blade. 890
But jaded horsemen, from the west,
At evening to the Castle pressed;
And busy talkers said they bore
Tidings of fight on Katrine's shore;
At noon the deadly fray begun, 895
And lasted till the set of sun.
Thus giddy rumor shook the town,
Till closed the Night her pennons brown.
The sun, awakening, through the smoky air
Of the dark city casts a sullen glance,
Rousing each caitiff to his task of care,
Of sinful man the sad inheritance;
Summoning revelers from the lagging dance, 5
Scaring the prowling robber to his den;
Gilding on battled tower the warder's lance,
And warning student pale to leave his pen,
And yield his drowsy eyes to the kind nurse of men.
What various scenes, and, Oh! what scenes of woe, 10
Are witnessed by that red and struggling beam!
The fevered patient, from his pallet low,
Through crowded hospital beholds its stream;
The ruined maiden trembles at its gleam;
The debtor wakes to thought of gyve and jail; 15
The love-lorn wretch starts from tormenting dream;
The wakeful mother, by the glimmering pale,
Trims her sick infant's couch, and soothes his feeble wail.
At dawn the towers of Stirling rang
With soldier-step and weapon-clang, 20
While drums, with rolling note, foretell
Relief to weary sentinel.
Through narrow loop and casement barred,
The sunbeams sought the Court of Guard,
And, struggling with the smoky air, 25
Deadened the torches' yellow glare.
In comfortless alliance shone
The lights through arch of blackened stone,
And showed wild shapes in garb of war,
Faces deformed with beard and scar, 30
All haggard from the midnight watch,
And fevered with the stern debauch;
For the oak table's massive board,
Flooded with wine, with fragments stored,
And beakers drained, and cups o'erthrown, 35
Showed in what sport the night had flown.
Some, weary, snored on floor and bench;
Some labored still their thirst to quench;
Some, chilled with watching, spread their hands
O'er the huge chimney's dying brands, 40
While round them, or beside them flung,
At every step their harness rung.
These drew not for their fields the sword,
Like tenants of a feudal lord,
Nor owned the patriarchal claim 45
Of Chieftain in their leader's name;
Adventurers they, from far who roved,
To live by battle which they loved.
There the Italian's clouded face,
The swarthy Spaniard's there you trace; 50
The mountain-loving Switzer there
More freely breathed in mountain-air;
The Fleming there despised the soil,
That paid so ill the laborer's toil;
Their rolls showed French and German name; 55
And merry England's exiles came,
To share, with ill-concealed disdain,
Of Scotland's pay the scanty gain.
All brave in arms, well trained to wield
The heavy halberd, brand, and shield; 60
In camps licentious, wild and bold;
In pillage fierce and uncontrolled;
And now, by holytide and feast,
From rules of discipline released.
They held debate of bloody fray, 65
Fought 'twixt Loch Katrine and Achray.
Fierce was their speech, and, mid their words,
Their hands oft grappled to their swords;
Nor sunk their tone to spare the ear
Of wounded comrades groaning near, 70
Whose mangled limbs, and bodies gored,
Bore token of the mountain sword,
Though, neighboring to the Court of Guard,
Their prayers and feverish wails were heard;
Sad burden to the ruffian joke, 75
And savage oath by fury spoke!--
At length up-started John of Brent,
A yeoman from the banks of Trent;
A stranger to respect or fear,
In peace a chaser of the deer, 80
In host a hardy mutineer,
But still the boldest of the crew,
When deed of danger was to do.
He grieved, that day, their games cut short,
And marred the dicer's brawling sport, 85
And shouted loud, "Renew the bowl!
And, while in merry catch I troll,
Let each the buxom chorus bear,
Like brethren of the brand and spear."
Our vicar still preaches that Peter and Poule 90
Laid a swinging long curse on the bonny brown bowl,
That there's wrath and despair in the jolly black-jack,
And the seven deadly sins in a flagon of sack;
Yet whoop, Barnaby! off with thy liquor,
Drink upsees out, and a fig for the vicar! 95
Our vicar he calls it damnation to sip
The ripe ruddy dew of a woman's dear lip,
Says, that Beelzebub lurks in her kerchief so sly,
And Apollyon shoots darts from her merry black eye;
Yet whoop, Jack! kiss Gillian the quicker, 100
Till she bloom like a rose, and a fig for the vicar!
Our vicar thus preaches--and why should he not?
For the dues of his cure are the placket and pot;
And 'tis right of his office poor laymen to lurch,
Who infringe the domains of our good Mother Church. 105
Yet whoop, bully-boys! off with your liquor,
Sweet Marjorie's the word, and a fig for the Vicar!
The warder's challenge, heard without,
Stayed in mid-roar the merry shout.
A soldier to the portal went-- 110
"Here is old Bertram, sirs, of Ghent;
And--beat for jubilee the drum!
A maid and minstrel with him come."
Bertram, a Fleming, gray and scarred,
Was entering now the Court of Guard, 115
A harper with him, and in plaid
All muffled close, a mountain maid,
Who backward shrunk, to 'scape the view
Of the loose scene and boisterous crew.
"What news?" they roared. "I only know, 120
From noon till eve we fought with foe,
As wild and as untamable
As the rude mountains where they dwell;
On both sides store of blood is lost,
Nor much success can either boast." 125
"But whence thy captives, friend? Such spoil
As theirs must needs reward thy toil.
Old dost thou wax, and wars grow sharp;
Thou now hast glee-maiden and harp!
Get thee an ape, and trudge the land, 130
The leader of a juggler band."
"No, comrade; no such fortune mine.
After the fight these sought our line,
That aged harper and the girl,
And, having audience of the Earl, 135
Mar bade I should purvey them steed,
And bring them hitherward with speed.
Forbear your mirth and rude alarm,
For none shall do them shame or harm."
"Hear ye his boast?" cried John of Brent, 140
Ever to strife and jangling bent;
"Shall he strike doe beside our lodge,
And yet the jealous niggard grudge
To pay the forester his fee?
I'll have my share, howe'er it be, 145
Despite of Moray, Mar, or thee."
Bertram his forward step withstood;
And, burning in his vengeful mood,
Old Allan, though unfit for strife;
Laid hand upon his dagger-knife; 150
But Ellen boldly stepped between,
And dropped at once the tartan screen.
So, from his morning cloud, appears
The sun of May, through summer tears.
The savage soldiery, amazed, 155
As on descended angel gazed;
Even hardy Brent, abashed and tamed,
Stood half admiring, half ashamed.
Boldly she spoke--"Soldiers, attend!
My father was the soldier's friend; 160
Cheered him in camps, in marches led,
And with him in the battle bled.
Not from the valiant, or the strong,
Should exile's daughter suffer wrong."
Answered De Brent, most forward still 165
In every feat of good or ill:
"I shame me of the part I played;
And thou an outlaw's child, poor maid!
An outlaw I by forest laws,
And merry Needwood knows the cause. 170
Poor Rose--if Rose be living now"--
He wiped his iron eye and brow--
"Must bear such age, I think, as thou.
Hear ye, my mates; I go to call
The Captain of our watch to hall. 175
There lies my halberd on the floor;
And he that steps my halberd o'er,
To do the maid injurious part,
My shaft shall quiver in his heart!
Beware loose speech, or jesting rough; 180
Ye all know John de Brent. Enough."
Their Captain came, a gallant young--
Of Tullibardine's house he sprung--
Nor wore he yet the spurs of knight;
Gay was his mien, his humor light, 185
And, though by courtesy controlled,
Forward his speech, his bearing bold.
The high-born maiden ill could brook
The scanning of his curious look
And dauntless eye; and yet, in sooth, 190
Young Lewis was a generous youth;
But Ellen's lovely face and mien,
Ill suited to the garb and scene,
Might lightly bear construction strange,
And give loose fancy scope to range. 195
"Welcome to Stirling towers, fair maid!
Come ye to seek a champion's aid,
On palfrey white, with harper hoar,
Like errant damosel of yore?
Does thy high quest a knight require, 200
Or may the venture suit a squire?"
Her dark eye flashed--she paused and sighed--
"O what have I to do with pride!
Through scenes of sorrow, shame, and strife,
A suppliant for a father's life, 205
I crave an audience of the King.
Behold, to back my suit, a ring,
The royal pledge of grateful claims,
Given by the Monarch to Fitz-James."
The signet ring young Lewis took, 210
With deep respect and altered look;
And said--"This ring our duties own;
And pardon, if to worth unknown,
In semblance mean obscurely veiled,
Lady, in aught my folly failed. 215
Soon as the day flings wide his gates,
The King shall know what suitor waits.
Please you, meanwhile, in fitting bower
Repose you till his waking hour;
Female attendance shall obey 220
Your hest, for service or array.
Permit I marshal you the way."
But, ere she followed, with the grace
And open bounty of her race,
She bade her slender purse be shared 225
Among the soldiers of the guard.
The rest with thanks their guerdon took;
But Brent, with shy and awkward look,
On the reluctant maiden's hold
Forced bluntly back the proffered gold: 230
"Forgive a haughty English heart,
And O forget its ruder part!
The vacant purse shall be my share,
Which in my barret-cap I'll bear.
Perchance, in jeopardy of war, 235
Where gayer crests may keep afar."
With thanks--'twas all she could--the maid
His rugged courtesy repaid.
When Ellen forth with Lewis went,
Allan made suit to John of Brent: 240
"My lady safe, O let your grace
Give me to see my master's face!
His minstrel I--to share his doom
Bound from the cradle to the tomb.
Tenth in descent, since first my sires 245
Waked for his noble house their lyres,
Nor one of all the race was known
But prized its weal above their own.
With the Chief's birth begins our care;
Our harp must soothe the infant heir, 250
Teach the youth tales of fight, and grace
His earliest feat of field or chase;
In peace, in war, our ranks we keep,
We cheer his board, we soothe his sleep,
Nor leave him till we pour our verse-- 255
A doleful tribute!--o'er his hearse.
Then let me share his captive lot;
It is my right--deny it not!"
"Little we reck," said John of Brent,
"We Southern men, of long descent; 260
Nor wot we how a name--a word--
Makes clansmen vassals to a lord;
Yet kind my noble landlord's part--
God bless the house of Beaudesert!
And, but I loved to drive the deer, 265
More than to guide the laboring steer,
I had not dwelt an outcast here.
Come, good old Minstrel, follow me;
Thy Lord and Chieftain shalt thou see."
Then, from a rusted iron hook, 270
A bunch of ponderous keys he took,
Lighted a torch, and Allan led
Through grated arch and passage dread.
Portals they passed, where, deep within,
Spoke prisoner's moan, and fetters' din; 275
Through rugged vaults, where, loosely stored,
Lay wheel, and ax, and headsman's sword,
And many an hideous engine grim,
For wrenching joint, and crushing limb,
By artist formed, who deemed it shame 280
And sin to give their work a name.
They halted at a low-browed porch,
And Brent to Allan gave the torch,
While bolt and chain he backward rolled
And made the bar unhasp its hold. 285
They entered--'twas a prison-room
Of stern security and gloom,
Yet not a dungeon; for the day
Through lofty gratings found its way,
And rude and antique garniture 290
Decked the sad walls and oaken floor;
Such as the rugged days of old
Deemed fit for captive noble's hold.
"Here," said De Brent, "thou mayst remain
Till the Leech visit him again. 295
Strict is his charge, the warders tell,
To tend the noble prisoner well."
Retiring then the bolt he drew,
And the lock's murmurings growled anew.
Roused at the sound, from lowly bed 300
A captive feebly raised his head;
The wondering Minstrel looked, and knew--
Not his dear lord, but Roderick Dhu!
For, come from where Clan-Alpine fought,
They, erring, deemed the Chief he sought. 305
As the tall ship, whose lofty prore
Shall never stem the billows more,
Deserted by her gallant band,
Amid the breakers lies astrand,
So, on his couch, lay Roderick Dhu! 310
And oft his fevered limbs he threw
In toss abrupt, as when her sides
Lie rocking in the advancing tides,
That shake her frame with ceaseless beat,
Yet cannot heave her from her seat-- 315
Oh! how unlike her course at sea!
Or his free step on hill and lea!
Soon as the Minstrel he could scan,
"What of thy lady?--of my clan?--
My mother?--Douglas?--tell me all? 320
Have they been ruined in my fall?
Ah, yes! or wherefore art thou here!
Yet speak--speak boldly--do not fear."
For Allan, who his mood well knew,
Was choked with grief and terror too. 325
"Who fought--who fled?--Old man, be brief--
Some might--for they had lost their Chief.
Who basely live?--who bravely died?"
"O calm thee, Chief!" the Minstrel cried,
"Ellen is safe;" "For that thank Heaven!" 330
"And hopes are for the Douglas given;
The Lady Margaret too is well;
And, for thy clan--on field or fell,
Has never harp of minstrel told,
Of combat fought so true and bold. 335
Thy stately Pine is yet unbent,
Though many a goodly bough is rent."
The Chieftain reared his form on high,
And fever's fire was in his eye;
But ghastly pale, and livid streaks 340
Checkered his swarthy brow and cheeks.
"Hark, Minstrel! I have heard thee play,
With measure bold, on festal day,
In yon lone isle, ... again where ne'er
Shall harper play, or warrior hear!... 345
That stirring air that peals on high,
O'er Dermid's race our victory.
Strike it!--and then--for well thou canst--
Free from thy minstrel spirit glanced,
Fling me the picture of the fight, 350
When met my clan the Saxon might.
I'll listen, till my fancy hears
The clang of swords, the crash of spears!
These grates, these walls, shall vanish then,
For the fair field of fighting men, 355
And my free spirit burst away,
As if it soared from battle fray."
The trembling Bard with awe obeyed--
Slow on the harp his hand he laid;
But soon remembrance of the sight 360
He witnessed from the mountain's height,
With what old Bertram told at night,
Awakened the full power of song,
And bore him in career along;
As shallop launched on river's side, 365
That slow and fearful leaves the side,
But, when it feels the middle stream,
Drives downward swift as lightning's beam.
BATTLE OF BEAL' AN DUINE
"The Minstrel came once more to view
The eastern ridge of Benvenue, 370
For ere he parted, he would say
Farewell to lovely Loch Achray--
Where shall he find in foreign land,
So lone a lake, so sweet a strand!
There is no breeze upon the fern, 375
Nor ripple on the lake,
Upon her eyry nods the erne,
The deer has sought the brake;
The small birds will not sing aloud,
The springing trout lies still, 380
So darkly glooms yon thunder cloud,
That swathes, as with a purple shroud,
Benledi's distant hill.
Is it the thunder's solemn sound
That mutters deep and dread, 385
Or echoes from the groaning ground
The warrior's measured tread?
Is it the lightning's quivering glance
That on the thicket streams,
Or do they flash on spear and lance 390
The sun's retiring beams?
--I see the dagger-crest of Mar,
I see the Moray's silver star,
Wave o'er the cloud of Saxon war,
That up the lake comes winding far! 395
To hero boune for battle-strife,
Or bard of martial lay,
'Twere worth ten years of peaceful life,
One glance at their array!
"Their light-armed archers far and near 400
Surveyed the tangled ground,
Their center ranks, with pike and spear,
A twilight forest frowned,
Their barded horsemen, in the rear,
The stern battalia crowned. 405
No cymbal clashed, no clarion rang,
Still were the pipe and drum;
Save heavy tread, and armor's clang,
The sullen march was dumb.
There breathed no wind their crests to shake, 410
Or wave their flags abroad;
Scarce the frail aspen seemed to quake,
That shadowed o'er their road.
Their vaward scouts no tidings bring,
Can rouse no lurking foe, 415
Nor spy a trace of living thing,
Save when they stirred the roe;
The host moves, like a deep-sea wave,
Where rise no rocks its pride to brave,
High-swelling, dark, and slow. 420
The lake is passed, and now they gain
A narrow and a broken plain,
Before the Trossachs' rugged jaws;
And here the horse and spearmen pause,
While, to explore the dangerous glen, 425
Dive through the pass the archer-men.
"At once there rose so wild a yell
Within that dark and narrow dell,
As all the fiends, from heaven that fell,
Had pealed the banner-cry of hell! 430
Forth from the pass in tumult driven,
Like chaff before the wind of heaven,
The archery appear;
For life! for life! their flight they ply--
And shriek, and shout, and battle-cry, 435
And plaids and bonnets waving high,
And broadswords flashing to the sky,
Are maddening in the rear.
Onward they drive, in dreadful race,
Pursuers and pursued; 440
Before that tide of flight and chase,
How shall it keep its rooted place,
The spearmen's twilight wood?
'Down, down,' cried Mar, 'your lances down!
Bear back both friend and foe!' 445
Like reeds before the tempest's frown,
That serried grove of lances brown
At once lay leveled low;
And closely shouldering side to side,
The bristling ranks the onset bide. 450
'We'll quell the savage mountaineer,
As their Tinchel cows the game!
They come as fleet as forest deer,
We'll drive them back as tame.'
"Bearing before them, in their course, 455
The relics of the archer force,
Like wave with crest of sparkling foam,
Right onward did Clan-Alpine come.
Above the tide, each broadsword bright
Was brandishing like beam of light, 460
Each targe was dark below;
And with the ocean's mighty swing,
When heaving to the tempest's wing,
They hurled them on the foe.
I heard the lance's shivering crash, 465
As when the whirlwind rends the ash;
I heard the broadsword's deadly clang,
As if an hundred anvils rang!
But Moray wheeled his rearward rank
Of horsemen on Clan-Alpine's flank, 470
'My banner-man advance!
I see,' he cried, 'their column shake.
Now, gallants! for your ladies' sake,
Upon them with the lance!'
The horsemen dashed among the rout, 475
As deer break through the broom;
Their steeds are stout, their swords are out,
They soon make lightsome room.
Clan-Alpine's best are backward borne--
Where, where was Roderick then! 480
One blast upon his bugle-horn
Were worth a thousand men.
And refluent through the pass of fear
The battle's tide was poured;
Vanished the Saxon's struggling spear, 485
Vanished the mountain-sword.
As Bracklinn's chasm, so black and steep,
Receives her roaring linn,
As the dark caverns of the deep
Suck the wild whirlpool in, 490
So did the deep and darksome pass
Devour the battle's mingled mass;
None linger now upon the plain,
Save those who ne'er shall fight again.
"Now westward rolls the battle's din, 495
That deep and doubling pass within.--
Minstrel, away! the work of fate
Is bearing on; its issue wait,
Where the rude Trossachs' dread defile
Opens on Katrine's lake and isle.-- 500
Gray Benvenue I soon repassed,
Loch Katrine lay beneath me cast.
The sun is set, the clouds are met,
The lowering scowl of heaven
An inky hue of livid blue 505
To the deep lake has given;
Strange gusts of wind from mountain-glen
Swept o'er the lake, then sunk again.
I heeded not the eddying surge,
Mine eye but saw the Trossachs' gorge, 510
Mine ear but heard the sullen sound,
Which like an earthquake shook the ground,
And spoke the stern and desperate strife
That parts not but with parting life,
Seeming, to minstrel ear, to toll 515
The dirge of many a passing soul.
Nearer it comes--the dim-wood glen
The martial flood disgorged again,
But not in mingled tide;
The plaided warriors of the North 520
High on the mountain thunder forth
And overhang its side;
While by the lake below appears
The dark'ning cloud of Saxon spears.
At weary bay each shattered band, 525
Eyeing their foemen, sternly stand;
Their banners stream like tattered sail,
That flings its fragments to the gale,
And broken arms and disarray
Marked the fell havoc of the day. 530
"Viewing the mountain's ridge askance,
The Saxon stood in sullen trance,
Till Moray pointed with his lance,
And cried--'Behold yon isle!
See! none are left to guard its strand, 535
But women weak, that wring the hand;
'Tis there of yore the robber band
Their booty wont to pile.
My purse, with bonnet-pieces store,
To him will swim a bow-shot o'er, 540
And loose a shallop from the shore.
Lightly we'll tame the war-wolf then,
Lords of his mate, and brood, and den.'
Forth from the ranks a spearman sprung,
On earth his casque and corselet rung, 545
He plunged him in the wave;
All saw the deed--the purpose knew,
And to their clamors Benvenue
A mingled echo gave;
The Saxons shout, their mate to cheer, 550
The helpless females scream for fear,
And yells for rage the mountaineer.
'Twas then, as by the outcry riven,
Poured down at once the lowering heaven;
A whirlwind swept Loch Katrine's breast, 555
Her billows reared their snowy crest.
Well for the swimmer swelled they high,
To mar the Highland marksman's eye;
For round him showered, 'mid rain and hail,
The vengeful arrows of the Gael. 560
In vain--he nears the isle--and lo!
His hand is on a shallop's bow.
Just then a flash of lightning came,
It tinged the waves and strand with flame;
I marked Duncraggan's widowed dame, 565
Behind an oak I saw her stand,
A naked dirk gleamed in her hand;
It darkened--but, amid the moan
Of waves, I heard a dying groan;
Another flash!--the spearman floats 570
A weltering corse beside the boats,
And the stern matron o'er him stood,
Her hand and dagger streaming blood.
"'Revenge! revenge!' the Saxons cried;
The Gaels' exulting shout replied. 575
Despite the elemental rage,
Again they hurried to engage;
But, ere they closed in desperate fight,
Bloody with spurring came a knight,
Sprung from his horse, and, from a crag, 580
Waved 'twixt the hosts a milk-white flag.
Clarion and trumpet by his side
Rung forth a truce-note high and wide,
While, in the Monarch's name, afar
An herald's voice forbade the war, 585
For Bothwell's lord, and Roderick bold,
Were both, he said, in captive hold."
--But here the lay made sudden stand,
The harp escaped the Minstrel's hand!--
Oft had he stolen a glance, to spy 590
How Roderick brooked his minstrelsy:
At first, the Chieftain, to the chime,
With lifted hand, kept feeble time;
That motion ceased--yet feeling strong
Varied his look as changed the song; 595
At length, no more his deafened ear
The minstrel melody can hear;
His face grows sharp--his hands are clenched,
As if some pang his heart-strings wrenched;
Set are his teeth, his fading eye 600
Is sternly fixed on vacancy;
Thus, motionless, and moanless, drew
His parting breath, stout Roderick Dhu!
Old Allan-bane looked on aghast,
While grim and still his spirit passed; 605
But when he saw that life was fled,
He poured his wailing o'er the dead.
"And art thou cold and lowly laid,
Thy foeman's dread, thy people's aid,
Breadalbane's boast, Clan-Alpine's shade! 610
For thee shall none a requiem say?
--For thee--who loved the minstrel's lay,
For thee, of Bothwell's house the stay,
The shelter of her exiled line,
E'en in this prison-house of thine 615
I'll wail for Alpine's honored Pine!
"What groans shall yonder valleys fill!
What shrieks of grief shall rend yon hill!
What tears of burning rage shall thrill,
When mourns thy tribe thy battles done, 620
Thy fall before the race was won,
Thy sword ungirt ere set of sun!
There breathes not clansman of thy line,
But would have given his life for thine.
O woe for Alpine's honored Pine! 625
"Sad was thy lot on mortal stage!
The captive thrush may brook the cage,
The prisoned eagle dies for rage.
Brave spirit, do not scorn my strain!
And, when its notes awake again, 630
Even she, so long beloved in vain,
Shall with my harp her voice combine,
And mix her woe and tears with mine,
To wail Clan-Alpine's honored Pine."
Ellen, the while, with bursting heart, 635
Remained in lordly bower apart,
Where played, with many colored gleams,
Through storied pane the rising beams.
In vain on gilded roof they fall,
And lightened up a tapestried wall, 640
And for her use a menial train
A rich collation spread in vain.
The banquet proud, the chamber gay,
Scarce drew one curious glance astray;
Or if she looked, 'twas but to say, 645
With better omen dawned the day
In that lone isle where waved on high
The dun-deer's hide for canopy;
Where oft her noble father shared
The simple meal her care prepared, 650
While Lufra, crouching by her side,
Her station claimed with jealous pride,
And Douglas, bent on woodland game,
Spoke of the chase to Malcolm Graeme,
Whose answer, oft at random made, 655
The wandering of his thoughts betrayed.
Those who such simple joys have known,
Are taught to prize them when they're gone.
But sudden, see, she lifts her head!
The window seeks with cautious tread. 660
What distant music has the power
To win her in this woeful hour!
Twas from a turret that o'erhung
Her latticed bower, the strain was sung.
LAY OF THE IMPRISONED HUNTSMAN
"My hawk is tired of perch and hood, 665
My idle greyhound loathes his food,
My horse is weary of his stall,
And I am sick of captive thrall.
I wish I were as I have been,
Hunting the hart in forest green, 670
With bended bow and bloodhound free,
For that's the life is meet for me.
"I hate to learn the ebb of time,
From yon dull steeple's drowsy chime,
Or mark it as the sunbeams crawl, 675
Inch after inch, along the wall.
The lark was wont my matins ring,
The sable rook my vespers sing;
These towers, although a king's they be,
Have not a hall of joy for me. 680
"No more at dawning morn I rise,
And sun myself in Ellen's eyes,
Drive the fleet deer the forest through,
And homeward wend with evening dew;
A blithesome welcome blithely meet, 685
And lay my trophies at her feet,
While fled the eve on wing of glee--
That life is lost to love and me!"
The heartsick lay was hardly said,
The list'ner had not turned her head, 690
It trickled still, the starting tear,
When light a footstep struck her ear,
And Snowdoun's graceful knight was near.
She turned the hastier, lest again
The prisoner should renew his strain. 695
"O welcome, brave Fitz-James!" she said;
"How may an almost orphan maid
Pay the deep debt"--"O say not so!
To me no gratitude you owe.
Not mine, alas! the boon to give, 700
And bid thy noble father live;
I can but be thy guide, sweet maid,
With Scotland's King thy suit to aid.
No tyrant he, though ire and pride
May lay his better mood aside. 705
Come, Ellen, come! 'tis more than time,
He holds his court at morning prime."
With beating heart, and bosom wrung,
As to a brother's arm she clung.
Gently he dried the falling tear, 710
And gently whispered hope and cheer;
Her faltering steps, half led, half stayed,
Through gallery fair, and high arcade,
Till, at his touch, its wings of pride
A portal arch unfolded wide. 715
Within 'twas brilliant all and light,
A thronging scene of figures bright;
It glowed on Ellen's dazzled sight,
As when the setting sun has given
Ten thousand hues to summer even, 720
And from their tissue, fancy frames
Aërial knights and fairy dames.
Still by Fitz-James her footing stayed;
A few faint steps she forward made,
Then slow her drooping head she raised, 725
And fearful round the presence gazed;
For him she sought, who owned this state,
The dreaded Prince whose will was fate!--
She gazed on many a princely port,
Might well have ruled a royal court; 730
On many a splendid garb she gazed--
Then turned bewildered and amazed,
For all stood bare; and, in the room,
Fitz-James alone wore cap and plume.
To him each lady's look was lent; 735
On him each courtier's eye was bent;
Midst furs and silks and jewels sheen,
He stood, in simple Lincoln green,
The center of the glittering ring--
And Snowdoun's Knight is Scotland's King. 740
As wreath of snow, on mountain breast,
Slides from the rock that gave it rest,
Poor Ellen glided from her stay,
And at the Monarch's feet she lay;
No word her choking voice commands-- 745
She showed the ring--she clasped her hands.
Oh! not a moment could he brook,
The generous Prince, that suppliant look!
Gently he raised her--and, the while,
Checked with a glance the circle's smile; 750
Graceful, but grave, her brow he kissed,
And bade her terrors be dismissed:
"Yes, Fair; the wandering poor Fitz-James
The fealty of Scotland claims.
To him thy woes, thy wishes, bring; 755
He will redeem his signet-ring.
Ask naught for Douglas; yester even
His prince and he have much forgiven.
Wrong hath he had from slanderous tongue,
I, from his rebel kinsmen, wrong. 760
We would not, to the vulgar crowd,
Yield what they craved with clamor loud;
Calmly we heard and judged his cause,
Our council aided, and our laws.
I stanched thy father's death-feud stern, 765
With stout De Vaux and gray Glencairn;
And Bothwell's lord henceforth we own
The friend and bulwark of our throne.
But, lovely infidel, how now?
What clouds thy misbelieving brow? 770
Lord James of Douglas, lend thine aid;
Thou must confirm this doubting maid."
Then forth the noble Douglas sprung,
And on his neck his daughter hung.
The Monarch drank, that happy hour, 775
The sweetest, holiest draught of Power--
When it can say, with godlike voice,
Arise, sad Virtue, and rejoice!
Yet would not James the general eye
On Nature's raptures long should pry; 780
He stepped between--"Nay, Douglas, nay,
Steal not my proselyte away!
The riddle 'tis my right to read,
That brought this happy chance to speed.
--Yes, Ellen, when disguised I stray 785
In life's more low but happier way,
'Tis under name which veils my power,
Nor falsely veils--for Stirling's tower
Of yore the name of Snowdoun claims,
And Normans call me James Fitz-James. 790
Thus watch I o'er insulted laws,
Thus learn to right the injured cause."
Then, in a tone apart and low--
"Ah, little traitress! none must know
What idle dream, what lighter thought, 795
What vanity full dearly bought,
Joined to thine eye's dark witchcraft, drew
My spell-bound steps to Benvenue,
In dangerous hour, and all but gave
Thy Monarch's life to mountain glaive!"-- 800
Aloud he spoke, "Thou still dost hold
That little talisman of gold,
Pledge of my faith, Fitz-James's ring--
What seeks fair Ellen of the King?"
Full well the conscious maiden guessed 805
He probed the weakness of her breast;
But, with that consciousness, there came
A lightening of her fears for Graeme,
And more she deemed the Monarch's ire
Kindled 'gainst him, who, for her sire 810
Rebellious broadsword boldly drew;
And, to her generous feeling true,
She craved the grace of Roderick Dhu.
"Forbear thy suit--the King of kings
Alone can stay life's parting wings. 815
I know his heart, I know his hand,
Have shared his cheer, and proved his brand.
My fairest earldom would I give
To bid Clan-Alpine's Chieftain live!--
Hast thou no other boon to crave? 820
No other captive friend to save?"
Blushing, she turned her from the King,
And to the Douglas gave the ring,
As if she wished her sire to speak
The suit that stained her glowing cheek. 825
"Nay, then, my pledge has lost its force,
And stubborn justice holds her course.
Malcolm, come forth!"--and, at the word,
Down kneeled the Graeme to Scotland's lord.
"For thee, rash youth, no suppliant sues, 830
From thee may Vengeance claim her dues,
Who, nurtured underneath our smile,
Hast paid our care by treacherous wile,
And sought, amid thy faithful clan,
A refuge for an outlawed man, 835
Dishonoring thus thy loyal name.
Fetters and warder for the Graeme!"
His chain of gold the King unstrung,
The links o'er Malcolm's neck he flung,
Then gently drew the glittering band, 840
And laid the clasp on Ellen's hand.
* * * * *
Harp of the North, farewell! The hills grow dark,
On purple peaks a deeper shade descending;
In twilight copse the glowworm lights her spark,
The deer, half seen, are to the covert wending. 845
Resume thy wizard elm! the fountain lending,
And the wild breeze, thy wilder minstrelsy;
Thy slumbers sweet with Nature's vespers blending,
With distant echo from the fold and lea,
And herdboy's evening pipe, and hum of housing bee. 850
Yet, once again, farewell, thou Minstrel harp!
Yet, once again, forgive my feeble sway,
And little reck I of the censure sharp
May idly cavil at an idle lay.
Much have I owed thy strains on life's long way, 855
Through secret woes the world has never known,
When on the weary night dawned wearier day,
And bitterer was the grief devoured alone.
That I o'erlived such woes, Enchantress! is thine own.
Hark! as my lingering footsteps slow retire, 860
Some Spirit of the Air has waked thy string!
'Tis now a seraph bold, with touch of fire,
'Tis now the brush of Fairy's frolic wing.
Receding now, the dying numbers ring
Fainter and fainter down the rugged dell, 865
And now the mountain breezes scarcely bring
A wandering witch-note of the distant spell--
And now, 'tis silent all!--Enchantress, fare thee well!
2. =witch-elm that shades Saint Fillan's spring.= The well or spring of
St. Fillan is on the summit of a hill near Loch Earn, some miles
northeast of the scene of the poem. The reason why Scott places the
"Harp of the North" here is that St. Fillan was the favorite saint of
Robert Bruce, and a relic of the saint had been borne in a shrine by a
warlike abbot at the battle of Bannockburn. The word "witch" (more
properly spelled "wych") is connected with "wicker" and means "bending,"
10. =Caledon.= Caledonia, poetic name for Scotland.
29. =Monan's rill.= Scott takes the liberty of assigning a "rill" to
this Scottish martyr of the fourth century on his own authority, unless
his editors have been at fault in failing to discover the stream
31. =Glenartney's.= Glen Artney or Valley of the Artney. The Artney is a
small river northeast of the main scene of the poem.
33. =Benvoirlich.= "Ben" is Scottish for mountain. Benvoirlich is near
the western end of Glenartney.
53. =Uam-Var.= A mountain between Glenartney and the Braes of Doune. The
name signifies "great den," and is derived from a rocky enclosure on the
mountain-side, believed to have been used in primitive times as a toil
or trap for deer. As told in Stanza IV a giant was fabled to have
inhabited this den.
71. =linn.= This word means either "waterfall" or "steep ravine." The
latter is probably the meaning here.
89. =Menteith.= A village and district southeast of the line of
lakes--Loch Katrine, Loch Achray, and Loch Vennachar--about which the
main action of the poem moves.
93. =Lochard.= Loch Ard, a small lake south of Loch Katrine.
=Aberfoyle.= A village east of Loch Ard.
95. =Loch-Achray.= See note on 89.
97. =Benvenue.= A mountain on the south bank of Loch Katrine.
103. =Cambusmore.= An estate owned by Scott's friends, the Buchanans, on
the border of the Braes of Doune.
105. =Benledi.= A majestic mountain shutting in the horizon to the north
of Loch Vennachar.
106. =Bochastle's heath.= The plain between Loch Vennachar and the river
112. =Brigg of Turk.= A romantic bridge, still in existence, between
Loch Vennachar and Loch Achray.
120. =dogs of black Saint Hubert's breed.= A breed of dogs, usually
black in color, very keen of scent and powerful in build, were kept by
the abbots of St. Hubert in commemoration of their patron saint, who was
138. =whinyard.= Obsolete term for _sword_.
145. =Trossachs.= A wild and beautiful defile between Loch Katrine and
Loch Achray. The word signifies "rough or bristled country."
166. =Woe worth the chase.= "Woe worth" is an exclamation, equivalent to
178. =Round and around the sounds were cast.= Notice the mimicry of the
echo in the vowel sounds of the line.
196. =tower ... on Shinar's plain.= The Tower of Babel.
208. =dewdrops sheen.= What part of speech is _sheen_? Is this use of
the word obsolete in prose?
227. =frequent flung.= "Frequent" is used in the original Latin sense
(Lat. _frequens_) of "crowded together," "numerous."
256. =Unless he climb, with footing nice.= Scott says: "Until the
present road was made through the romantic pass I have presumptuously
attempted to describe, there was no mode of issuing out of the defile
called the Trossachs, excepting by a sort of ladder, composed of the
branches and roots of trees." What is the meaning of "nice" here? What
other meanings has the word had?
313. =Highland plunderers.= The clans inhabiting the region about Loch
Katrine were in the habit of making incursions into the neighboring
Lowlands to plunder and lay waste the country. Their warlike habits were
fostered by the rugged and almost inaccessible character of the country,
which prevented the Lowlanders from retaliating upon them, and enabled
them also to resist the royal authority.
363. =snood.= A ribbon worn by Scotch lassies and upon marriage replaced
by the matron's "curch" or cap. =plaid.= A rectangular shawl-like
garment made of the checkered cloth called tartan.
438. =couch was pulled.= Freshly pulled heather was the most luxurious
bedding known to the Highlander.
440. =ptarmigan and heath-cock.= These birds are a species of grouse,
the one red, the other black.
460. =on the visioned future bent.= The gift of second-sight was
universally believed in at this period in the Highlands.
504. =retreat in dangerous hour.= "The Celtic chieftains, whose lives
were continually exposed to peril, had usually, in the most retired spot
of their domain, some place of retreat for the hour of necessity ... a
tower, a cavern, or a rustic hut." (Scott's note in edition of 1830.)
546. =target.= What is the connection of this word with that used in
archery and gun-practice?
566. =brook to wield.= "Brook" commonly means "endure." What is its
exact meaning here?
573. =Ferragus, or Ascabart.= Two giants whose names appear frequently
in medieval romances of chivalry. The first is better known as Ferran,
under which name he figures in the _Orlando Furioso_ of Ariosto.
Ascabart plays a part in the old English metrical romance of Sir Bevis
580. =To whom, though more than kindred knew.= This is a very obscure
expression for Scott, who is usually so careful to make himself clear.
The meaning seems to be: Ellen regarded her as a mother, though that was
more than the actual kinship of the two justified (literally "knew how
591. =Knight of Snowdoun, James Fitz-James.= As appears later in the
poem, these were not his true name and title, though he was entitled to
622. =a harp unseen.= In modern Scotland the bagpipe has altogether
taken the place of the harp. A writer of the sixteenth century says:
"They (the Highlanders) take great delight to deck their harps with
silver and precious stones; the poor ones that cannot attain thereunto
deck them with crystal. They sing verses prettily compounded (i.e.,
composed) containing for the most part praises of valiant men."
638. =pibroch.= (Pronounced pee-brock.) A wild tumultuous tune played on
the bagpipes in the onset of battle.
642. =bittern.= A wading bird, allied to the heron.
657. =reveillé.= As the rhyme shows, this word is pronounced
_reh-vail'yah_ here. The common pronunciation in the United States is
_rev-a-lee'_. It is the drum-beat or bugle-call at dawn to arouse
1. =blackcock.= See note to I, 440.
7. =minstrel grey.= Until well on in the eighteenth century it was
customary for Highland chieftains to keep in their service a bard, whose
chief duty it was to sing the exploits of the ancestors of the line.
69. =Lead forth his fleet.= What kind of figure is contained in the word
_fleet_ as applied to the flock of ducks?
131. =harp, which erst Saint Modan swayed.= St. Modan was not a harper,
as Scott elsewhere ingenuously confesses, adding, however, that "Saint
Dunstan certainly did play upon that instrument."
141. =Wailed loud through Bothwell's bannered hall.= The minstrel tries
to account for the strange way in which his harp gives back mournful
sounds instead of the joyous ones he is trying to evoke, by calling to
Ellen's mind two other occasions when it behaved similarly. One of these
was when it foreboded the death of Ellen's mother; the other when it
foreboded the exile of the Douglasses during the minority of James V.
For particulars, see the introduction on the historical setting of the
poem. Bothwell Castle is on the Clyde, a few miles from Glasgow.
159. =From Tweed to Spey.= The Tweed is in the extreme southern part,
the Spey in the northern part, of Scotland.
200. =Lady of the Bleeding Heart.= The minstrel calls Ellen so because a
bleeding heart was the heraldic emblem of the Douglas family.
206. =strathspey.= A dance, named from the district of Strath Spey, in
the north of Scotland. It resembled the reel, but was slower.
213. =Clan-Alpine's pride.= Clan Alpine was the collective name of the
followers of Roderick Dhu, who figures later in the poem as Ellen's
rejected suitor and the enemy of the mysterious "Knight of Snowdoun" who
has just taken his departure from the island.
216. =Lennox foray.= Lennox is the district south of Menteith, in the
Lowlands. It was the scene of innumerable forays and "cattle-drives."
221. =In Holy-Rood a knight he slew.= Holyrood is the royal castle at
Edinburgh, where the court usually was held. It was deemed a heinous and
desperate offense to commit an act of blood in the royal residence or
its immediate neighborhood, since such an act was an indirect violation
of the majesty of the king, and a breaking of "the king's peace." It was
for this offense that Roderick Dhu was exiled, and compelled to live
like an outlaw in his mountain fastness.
227. =Who else dared give.= Notice how skilfully Scott manages to give
us the relations of the chief characters of the poem to each other, and
to show that Ellen's father, pursued by the hatred of James V, has been
given the island shelter in Loch Katrine by Roderick Dhu who is about to
make his appearance in the story.
236. =Full soon may dispensation sought.= A papal dispensation was
necessary, because Ellen and Roderick Dhu were cousins. See next note.
249. =All that a mother could bestow.= Here again the poet takes the
indirect way of making clear his point, namely that the matron
introduced in the first canto is the mother of Roderick Dhu. The phrase
"an orphan in the wild," is in apposition with the following phrase "her
sister's child"--i.e., Ellen herself. From this it appears that Lady
Margaret is Ellen's aunt, and that Roderick Dhu is, therefore, Ellen's
260. =Maronnan's cell.= A chapel at the eastern extremity of Loch
Lomond, dedicated to the rather obscure saint here named.
270. =Bracklinn's thundering wave.= The reference is to a cascade made
by a mountain torrent at the Bridge of Bracklinn, near the village of
Callender in Menteith. Notice how Scott's numerous references to places
in the region where the poem is laid tend gradually to give us an idea
of the richness and diversity of the landscape.
274. =claymore.= A large two-handed sword.
305. =Thy father's battle-brand.= Some swords, especially those which
had been magically forged, were held to possess the property of drawing
themselves from their scabbard at the approach of their owner's deadly
enemy. This is the first vague hint which Scott gives us as to the real
identity of the "Knight of Snowdoun." To throw a further glamor of
romance about the prophetical weapon, he tells us that it was given by
fairies to an ancestor of its present owner, namely, to Archibald, third
Duke of Angus, called Tine-man (Loseman) because he always lost his men
in battle, and that this gift was made while Archibald was in league
with Harry Hotspur.
319. =Beltane game.= The sports of May Day.
327. =canna.= Cotton grass.
Stanza XVI. In this and the two following stanzas notice how skillfully
description and narrative are woven together, and how the picture gains
in detail and distinctness as the boats approach.
334. =barges.= What change has occurred in the use of this word?
335. =Glengyle ... Brianchoil.= Why does the poet introduce these proper
names? Are they of any value as information?
343. =tartans.= See note to I, xix, 363.
395. =The chorus first could Allan know.= The chorus was the first part
of the song which the harper, listening from the shore, could distinctly
408. =Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu.= The words _vich_ and _dhu_ are Gaelic,
the first meaning "descendant of," the second "black or swarthy." King
Alpine was the half-mythical ancestor from whom the clan of Alpine
sprung. The line means, therefore, "Black Roderick, descendant of
Alpine." Compare II, xii, 220, where Allan-bane calls the chieftain
"Black Sir Roderick."
410. =Blooming at Beltane.= See note to II, 319.
416. =Breadalbane.= A large district in the western part of the county
419-426. =Glen Fruin, Bannochar, Glenn Luss, Ross-dhu, Leven-glen.=
What, in simple language, should you say was the value of this array of
obscure names in the song?
431. =the rose-bud that graces yon islands.= To whom do the singers
497. =Percy's Norman pennon.= Captured by the Douglas in the raid which
led to the battle of Otterburn, as celebrated in the old ballad of Chevy
504. =The waned crescent.= This may be taken as referring to some
victory over the Turkish armies in the East, or to the defeat of
Scott's ancestor, Sir Walter Scott of Buccleugh, who was defeated in an
attempt to set the young king free from the Douglas. The shield of Sir
Walter bore a crescent moon.
506. =Blantyre.= A priory on the banks of the Clyde near Bothwell
castle, of which ruins still remain.
574. =Glenfinlas.= A valley to the northeast of Loch Katrine, between
Ben-An and Ben-Ledi.
577. =royal ward.= Malcolm, as a minor, was still under the king's
583. =Strath-Endrick glen.= A valley on the southeast of Loch Lomond,
presumably Malcolm's home.
623-625. =The Meggat=, the =Yarrow=, and the =Ettrick= are successive
tributaries, the waters of which eventually reach the Tweed. The Teviot
is also a tributary of the Tweed. All five rivers are in the southern
part of Scotland.
678. =Links of Forth.= Banks of the river Forth. In general the word
"links" means flat or undulating stretches of sandy soil, partially
covered with grass or heather.
692. =There are who have.= How does this differ from the prose idiom?
801. =pity 'twere such cheek should feel the midnight air.= Was there
anything in the Highland character and training which would make these
words seem particularly cutting? Notice how the insult is deepened later
by the assumption on Rhoderick Dhu's part that Malcolm is capable of
treachery toward Douglas and the Clan of Alpine.
809. =henchman.= This word is said to have been originally "haunch-man"
because it was the duty of this retainer to stand beside his master's
chair (at his haunches as it were) at the feast, in readiness to do his
bidding or to defend him if attacked.
831. =Fiery Cross.= The signal for the gathering of the clan to war. The
preparation and carrying abroad of this cross is described in the next
39. =cushat dove.= Better known as the ringdove.
63. =shivers.= "Slivers" is the more common word, but the verb "to
shiver," meaning to break in pieces, keeps the original meaning.
74. =Benharrow.= This mountain is near the north end of Loch Lomond.
87. =strath.= A wide open valley, distinguished from a glen, which is
104. =fieldfare.= A species of thrush.
116. =virgin snood.= See note to I, 363.
154. =River Demon.= Concerning this creature Scott gives the current
observation: "The River Demon, or River-horse, is an evil spirit,
delighting to forebode and witness calamity. He frequents most Highland
lakes and rivers; and one of his most memorable exploits was performed
upon the banks of Loch Vennachar: it consisted in the destruction of a
bridal party with all its attendants."
156. =noontide hag.= A gigantic emaciated female figure which, contrary
to the general rule of ghostly creatures, appeared in the full blaze of
168. =Ben-Shie's boding scream.= The ben-shie or banshee was a tutelar
spirit, supposed to forebode by midnight howlings the death of a member
of a family to which it was attached. The superstition is still
prevalent in Ireland.
191. =Inch-Cailliach.= An island in Loch Lomond, used as a place of
burial for several neighboring clans, of whom the descendants of King
Alpine were the chief. The name means "Isle of Nuns," or "Isle of Old
Stanza IX. Notice the change in the rime system which marks the break
from flowing narrative to solemn dramatic speech, and is continued
through the stanza to increase the effect of solemnity.
253. =Coir-Uriskin, thy goblin cave.= This cave and the pass of
Beala-nam-bo were on the slopes of Ben Venue, a mountain near Loch
Katrine. See notes to 622 and 664.
286. =Lanrick mead.= This meadow is still pointed out to the traveler on
the road from Loch Vennachar to the Trossachs.
300. =dun deer's hide.= It was their shoes made of untanned deer's hide,
with the hair outwards, which gave the Highlander's their nickname,
349. =Duncraggan.= A village between Loch Achray and Loch Vennachar.
369. =coronach.= Death-song.
386. =correi.= Scott explains this as "the hollow side of the hill,
where game usually lies."
387. =cumber.= Trouble, perplexity.
394. =Stumah.= The name of a dog, signifying "faithful."
461. =chapel of St. Bride.= This chapel stood on the knoll of
Strath-Ire, mentioned at the beginning of the stanza, halfway up the
pass of Leny. Scott is singularly careful not to take liberties with the
geography of the localities where his story is laid.
468. =pole-ax.= An old weapon consisting of a broad ax-head fastened to
a long pole, with a prick at the back.
480. =Tombea's Mary.= Tombea and Armandave are names of places in the
vicinity of Strath-Ire.
546. =bracken.= Fern.
570. =Balquidder.= The braes of Balquidder extended west from Loch Voil,
to the northward of the scene of the poem. =midnight blaze.= The heather
on the moorlands is often set on fire by the shepherds in order that new
herbage may spring up.
578. =Loch Voil=, etc. This and the following names are of poetic value
in suggesting tangibly the rapid passage of the runner from place to
622. =Coir-nan-Uriskin.= Scott says that this name, signifying "Den of
the Shaggy Men," was derived from the mythical inhabitants of the place,
creatures half man and half goat, resembling the satyrs of classical
641. =still=, stillness. Can you instance other cases of the use of
adjective for noun?
656. =satyrs.= See note to 622.
664. =Beal-nam-bo.= The name signifies "Pass of cattle." It is described
as a "most magnificent glade, overhung with aged birch-trees, a little
higher up the mountains than the Coir-nan-Uriskin."
672. =A single page, to bear his sword.= The sword bearer, like the
henchman and the bard, was a regular officer attached to the person of a
Highland Chief. He was called in Gaelic "Gilliemore," or sword-man.
19. =Braes of Doune.= Doune is a village on the Teith, a few miles
northwest of Stirling. The word "brae" means slope or declivity; the
braes of Doune stretch away east and north from the village.
36. =boune.= An obsolete word meaning "prepared."
63. =Taghairm.= The word means "Augury of the Hide."
68. =When swept our merrymen Gallangad.= The reference is to one of the
forays or "cattledrives" which the Highland chiefs were fond of making
at the expense of their neighbors. The situation of Gallangad is now
unknown, but it was presumably a portion of the Lennox district.
73. =kerns.= The kern or cateran of the Highlands was a light-armed
infantryman, as opposed to the heavy-armed "gallowglass."
78. =scatheless.= Without fear of injury, because of the weariness of
the animal after the march.
82. =boss.= The word means knob or protuberance, especially that in the
center of a shield. What the boss of a cliff can be it is a little
difficult to understand.
98. =watching while the deer is broke.= The cutting up of the deer and
allotting of the various portions was technically known as the
"breaking" of the deer. A certain gristly portion was given, by long
custom, to the birds, and came to be known as "the raven's bone."
140. =A spy has sought my land.= Roderick refers, as appears later, to
the "Knight of Snowdoun" of Canto I.
150. =glaive=, sword.
153. =sable pale.= An heraldic term, applied to a black perpendicular
stripe in a coat of arms.
174. =stance=, station, foundation.
231. =Cambus-kenneth's fane.= The ruins of Cambus-kenneth Abbey are
still to be seen on the banks of the Forth near Stirling.
262. =mavis and merle=, thrush and blackbird.
283. =darkling was the battle tried.= Scott first wrote "blindfold" in
place of "darkling."
285. =pall.= A rich cloth, from which mantles of noblemen were made.
=Vair.= A fur much used for the garments of nobility in medieval times.
298. =wonn'd=, an obsolete equivalent of "dwelt."
306. =fairies' fatal green.= The elves or gnomes wore green, and were
angered when any mortal ventured to wear that color. For this or some
other reason green was held an unlucky color in many parts of Scotland.
308. =thou wert christened man.= Urgan, as appears later, was a mortal,
who had fallen under the spell of the elves and lived their life, but
who still retained some of the privileges and immunities which belonged,
according to medieval belief, to all persons who had been baptized into
the Christian church.
371. =Dunfermline.= An Abbey sixteen miles northwest of Edinburgh.
385. =my former guide.= This is Red Murdoch, of whom Roderick Dhu
speaks, see 144 ff.
531. The =Allan= and the =Devan= are two streams which descend from the
hills of Perthshire into the lowland plain.
555. =from Maudlin's charge.= Maudlin, as a proper name, is a corruption
of Magdalen. The curious development of meaning which has taken place in
the word should be looked out in the dictionary.
559. =peasant pitched a bar.= "Pitching the bar" was a feat of strength
like the modern "putting the shot." It was usually indulged in by the
peasantry at fairs and on the village greens.
564. =that savage groom.= The mad woman refers to Red Murdoch, the
594. =a stag of ten.= With ten branches on his antlers.
46. =shingles=, declivities or "slides" of small broken stone.
124. =While Albany with feeble hand.= After the death of James IV at
Flodden Field the regency was held first by the mother of the young
king, and then by the Duke of Albany. The latter was forced by the
Estates to leave Scotland in 1624, and soon after the regency fell
practically, though, not constitutionally, into the hands of the king's
step-father, Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus. See introduction on the
historical setting of the poem.
198. =curlew.= A shore-bird, with a long curved bill.
253. =jack.= A coat of mail made of leather or heavy padded cloth.
301. =On Bochastle the moldering lines, etc.= East of Lake Vennachar, in
the moor of Bochastle, are some traces of the Roman occupation, in the
form of mounds and intrenchments.
409. =mountain-cat.= "Catamount" is the common name in America.
461. =palfrey.= A saddle-horse as distinguished from a war-horse.
465. =weed=, garment. The word is now restricted to the phrase "widow's
490-497. =Torry=, =Lendrick=, =Deanstown=, =Doune=, =Blair-Drummond=,
=Ochtertyre=, and =Kier=, are all on the Teith, between Bochastle and
525. =by Saint Serle.= The necessities of rime compel the poet to choose
a very obscure saint from the calendar.
532. =postern gate=, the small rear gate of a castle, generally used by
the servants only.
584. =jennet.= A small Spanish horse, originally a cross between native
and Arabian stock.
611. =morricers=, morrice dancers. The morrice or morris was an old
dance, imported into England from Spain. Believed to be a corruption of
613. =butts=, the targets for archery practice.
614. =Bold Robin Hood and all his band.= It is of course not meant that
the renowned outlaw himself and his followers were there, but
masqueraders representing these traditional characters. All the names
that follow occur in one or other of the legends and ballads which
gathered about Robin Hood's name.
622. =the white=, i.e., the white center of the target.
660. =Ladies Rock.= A hillock between the Castle and Grayfriar's church,
from which the court ladies viewed the games.
872. =lily lawn.= A conventional phrase in old ballad poetry, without
any very definite meaning.
42. =harness=, armor and other war gear.
60. =halberd=, a weapon consisting of a battle-ax and pike at the end of
a long staff. =brand=, a poetical word for sword.
92. =black-jack=, a large drinking can of tarred or waxed leather.
95. =Drink upsees out.= "Upsees" is a corruption of a Dutch Bacchanalian
103. =cure.= Parish or charge. =placket.= Petticoat.
104. =lurch=, swindle, leave in difficulty.
306. =prore=, poetical form of "prow."
377. =erne=, eagle.
Stanza XVII. Notice how both rime and rhythm mirror the growing
excitement of the conflict.
452. =As their Tinchel cows the game.= The "Tinchel" was a circle of
hunters, surrounding a herd of deer and gradually closing in on them.
488. =linn=, the word here means waterfall.
586. =Bothwell's lord=, Douglas. See note to II, xiii, 141.
591. =How Roderick brooked his minstrelsy.= "Brooked" is not used in its
strong sense of "endured," but in the weaker one of "received"; we
should say colloquially "how he took it."
(Adapted, and enlarged, from the _Manual for the Study of English
Classics_, by George L. Marsh)
HELPS TO STUDY
LIFE OF SCOTT
What prominent traits of Scott's character can be traced to his
ancestors (pp. 9, 10)?
How did he regard the members of his clan, especially the chief (pp. 19,
What characteristic is represented in his refusal to learn Latin and
Greek at school?
What was his own method of obtaining an education? In what did he become
proficient (p. 12)?
How did he regard his legal studies? How did they benefit him in his
How was he first interested in ballad-writing?
Tell of the composition, publication, and popularity of his first poems
(pp. 20 ff.).
In what business venture did he become involved, and what was the final
outcome? What defect in his character is it charged that his business
relations brought to light (pp. 24, 25)?
Tell of the composition of his novels. Why were they published
What can you say of his last years and his struggle to pay off the debts
incurred by his connection with Ballantyne?
SCOTT AND THE ROMANTIC MOVEMENT
What is meant by the "Romantic Movement"? What four men were chiefly
instrumental in bringing about this revolution in English poetry (p.
What was the influence of Scott's poetry on the age in comparison with
that of his chief contemporaries? Give the reasons (p. 41).
What were the distinguishing qualities of the literature of the
eighteenth century? Illustrate these by examples from Pope or any other
poet that you choose from that period, and put them into contrast with
the qualities of the romantic poets. Does Scott's style differ greatly
from that of the poets of the preceding century?
THE LADY OF THE LAKE--CONSTRUCTION
Is there anything that has taken place before the opening of the poem
that has to be understood for a thorough appreciation of the story (p.
46)? How are the previous fortunes of the Douglas family related (pp.
What purpose in the plot does the Minstrel serve throughout?
What do you think of the opening?
Does the chase serve merely to furnish an opportunity for the
Is the action rapid or slow? How is it often retarded?
For what are the songs introduced?
Note the transition from stanza X to XI (p. 66); from XVI to XVII (p.
71); from XXIV to XXV (p. 144); and many others.
How many cases of concealed identity are there in the poem? Does this
turning of the plot on mistaken identity make it seem unreal? Show in
each case where the identity is exposed and where hints have been given
beforehand of the real identity.
Is there any intimation of the identity of Ellen and her father in lines
565-7, page 81; lines 728-39, page 87?
What is the purpose of Fitz-James's dream (p. 86)?
What is the first hint of Ellen's love story and the name of her lover
(pp. 74, 92)?
When is Roderick Dhu first mentioned (p. 96)? In what light?
Where are the relations of Ellen with Roderick and with Malcolm further
discussed (p. 98)?
To whom is the reference in lines 732-34, page 116?
What action does the struggle between Roderick and Malcolm motive?
How does Canto Third advance the plot? What is its poetical value (p.
What purpose does Brian serve?
Does the prophecy (p. 157) heighten the dramatic effect of the following
scene (see p. 196)?
For what are lines 138-47, page 157, a preparation (p. 168)?
What is the purpose of the Ballad of Alice Brand (pp. 162 ff.)?
What other results of Scott's early interest in ballad literature can
you point out in _The Lady of the Lake_?
Does the warning of James by the song of mad Blanche seem improbable?
What is the purpose of the long speeches between James and Roderick in
the dramatic scene following Roderick's calling of his men?
Does the combat between James and Roderick (pp. 198, 199) seem a real
Why was Roderick preserved to die in the castle at Stirling?
Are lines 519-30, page 203, an artistic preparation for the following
How do the games in the Castle park hasten the plot to its end?
How is the fight between Clan-Alpine and the Earl of Mar described?
How much of the action takes place outside the poem and is related?
Note the use of the supernatural (p. 239). Does it seem impressive?
Is the conclusion sustained and dramatic?
Are the nature descriptions given for scenic effect, or do they serve as
a background and setting for the story?
Does Scott employ incidents of plot for the sake of dragging in
Which is the best in the poem: nature description, plot construction,
character, description, or the portrayal of old life and customs?
Is the descriptive language suggestive?
Are the landscape scenes given minutely, or are they drawn broadly, with
a free hand?
Does Scott keep closely to the geography of the region of his tale (see
map, p. 6, and note 461, p. 259)?
Perry Pictures 912-17 (from Landseer's paintings of deer) and 1511 (Ben
Lomond) may be used in illustration of _The Lady of the Lake_.
Are the characters distinctly drawn--do they seem real people of flesh
How is Ellen's character displayed?
Do you feel any sympathy for Roderick Dhu? Does your impression of his
character improve (pp. 96, 98, 99, 182, 188, 195, and 241)?
Was Douglas an historical character?
Is the character of James Fitz-James true to James V of Scotland?
Is Allan-bane representative of the place in the ancient Scottish clan
which the minstrel had?
1. Scott's boyhood (with emphasis on the cultivation of characteristics
displayed in his poems; pp. 10-12).
2. Scott as a landed proprietor (pp. 27-33). This may well take the form
of an imaginary visit to Abbotsford.
3. Scott in business (pp. 23-25, 34-36). Compare his struggle against
debt with Mark Twain's.
4. The historical setting of _The Lady of the Lake_ (pp. 46-48).
5. A visit to the scene of _The Lady of the Lake_.
6. Summary of the action; as a whole, or by parts (cantos or other
7. Character sketches of Fitz-James, Roderick Dhu, Ellen, Malcolm,
8. Highland customs reflected in the poem (pp. 129 ff., 253, 254, etc.).
9. The use of the Minstrel in the poem.
10. The interpolated lyrics--what purposes do they, respectively, serve?
11. Descriptions of scenes resembling, in one way or another, attractive
scenes depicted in _The Lady of the Lake_.
12. Soldier life in Stirling Castle (pp. 219 ff.).
13. Contrast feudal warfare (especially as shown on pp. 81, 182) with
14. Show, by selected passages, Scott's veneration for the ideals of
feudalism (pp. 81, 228, etc.).
15. Rewrite the scene of the combat between Roderick and Fitz-James (pp.
198-200) in the prose style of Scott as in the tournament scene in
SELECTIONS FOR CLASS READING
1. The chase (pp. 60-65).
2. The Trossachs (pp. 66-68).
3. Ellen (pp. 72-74).
4. Ellen's song (pp. 83-85).
5. Roderick's arrival (pp. 100-105).
6. Roderick's proposal (pp. 113-118).
7. The consecration of the bloody cross (pp. 128-132).
8. The summoning of the clan (pp. 132-135).
9. The Coronach (pp. 136, 137).
10. Roderick overhears Ellen's song (pp. 148-149).
11. The ballad of Alice Brand (pp. 162-167).
12. Fitz-James and the mad woman (pp. 172-178).
13. The hospitality of a Highlander (pp. 180-183).
14. The hidden army (pp. 191-192).
15. The combat (pp. 195-200).
16. Douglas at the games (pp. 207-211).
17. The speech of Douglas (pp. 212, 213).
18. The Battle of Beal' an Duine (pp. 232-240).
19. Fitz-James reveals himself to Ellen (pp. 244-249).
CLASSES OF POETRY
It is important for the student of poetry to know the principal classes
into which poems are divided. The following brief explanations do not
pretend to be exhaustive, but they should be of practical aid. It must
be remembered that a long poem is sometimes not very definitely of any
one class, but combines characteristics of different classes.
_Narrative_ poetry, like narrative prose, aims primarily to tell a
The _epic_ is the most pretentious kind of narrative poetry; it tells in
serious verse of the great deeds of a popular hero. The _Iliad_, the
_Aeneid_, _Beowulf_, _Paradise Lost_ are important epics. The _Idylls of
the King_ is in the main an epic poem.
The _metrical romance_ is a rather long story in verse, of a less
exalted and heroic character than the true epic. Scott's _Lady of the
Lake_ is a familiar example.
The _verse tale_ is shorter and likely to be less dignified and serious
than the metrical romance. The stories in Chaucer's _Canterbury Tales_,
or Burns's _Tam O'Shanter_, may serve as examples.
The _ballad_ is a narrative poem, usually rather short and in such form
as to be sung. It is distinguished from a song by the fact that it tells
a story. _Popular_ or _folk_ ballads are ancient and of unknown
authorship--handed down by word of mouth and varied by the transmitters.
_Artistic_ ballads are imitations, by known poets, of traditional
_Descriptive_ and _reflective_ poems have characteristics sufficiently
indicated by the adjectives in italics.
The _pastoral_ is a particular kind of descriptive and narrative poem in
which the scene is laid in the country.
The _idyll_ is, according to the etymology of its name, a "little
picture." Tennyson's _Idylls of the King_ are rather more epic than
idyllic in the strict sense of the term. The terms _idyll_ and
_pastoral_ are not definitely discriminated.
_Lyric_ poetry is poetry expressing personal feeling or emotion and in
tuneful form. _Songs_ are the simplest examples of lyric poetry; formal
_odes_, such as Wordsworth's on "Immortality," the most elaborate. A
lyric does not primarily tell a story, but it may imply one or refer to
The _elegy_ is a reflective lyric prompted by the death of some one.
Tennyson's _In Memoriam_ is a collection of elegiac lyrics.
A _hymn_ is a religious lyric.
_Dramatic_ poetry presents human life in speech and action.
A _tragedy_ is a serious drama which presents its hero in a losing
struggle ending in his death.
A _comedy_ does not end in death, and is usually cheerful and humorous.
The _dramatic monologue_ is a poem in which a dramatic situation is
presented, or perhaps a story is told, by one speaker.
_Satire_ in verse aims to correct abuses, to ridicule persons, etc.
_Didactic_ poetry has the purpose of teaching.
The following errors have been corrected in this text:
Page 41: added period after "Southey in 1774"
Page 89: put blank line between lines 18 and 19 of Canto Second
Page 98: moved line number 255 of Canto Second to correct position (in
the original the line number was at line 254)
Page 165: changed "by their monarch's si" to "... side"
Page 196: changed "by" to "my" in "When foeman bade me draw my blade;"
Page 212: changed "shreik" to "shriek" in "the women shriek;"
Page 253: changed comma to period after "a harp unseen"
Page 256: changed "364" to "363" in note on line 343 of Canto Second
Page 258: changed "364" to "363" in note on line 116 of Canto Third
Page 260: added period after "150" in note on line 150 of Canto Fourth
Page 262: added period after "from the calendar"
Page 262: changed "Robinhood" to "Robin Hood" in "Bold Robin Hood and
all his band."
Page 268: changed "p. 5" to "p. 6" in question "Does Scott keep ..."]
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